Saturday, January 31, 2009

Monet and Manet – who is who and who is better?

In my childhood when I first heard about Monet and Manet (Claude Monet and Édouard Manet) painters and saw their artwork, what was available to see at the time, I was thinking that they are the same person. Their paintings looked very much alike and the similarity in the name added to the confusion. So who is who and is one better than another?

Small biography tidbits from –

Claude Monet –

“Claude Monet was born on 14 November 1840 on the fifth floor of 45 rue Laffitte, in the ninth arrondissement of Paris. He was the second son of Claude-Adolphe and Louise-Justine Aubrée Monet, both of them second-generation Parisians. On 20 May 1841, he was baptised into the local church parish, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette as Oscar-Claude. In 1845, his family moved to Le Havre in Normandy. His father wanted him to go into the family grocery store business, but Claude Monet wanted to become an artist. His mother was a singer.”

Édouard Manet –

“Édouard Manet was born in Paris on 23 January 1832, to an affluent and well connected family. His mother, Eugénie-Desirée Fournier, was the daughter of a diplomat and the goddaughter of the Swedish crown prince, Charles Bernadotte, from whom the current Swedish monarchs are descended. His father, Auguste Manet, was a French judge who expected Édouard to pursue a career in law. His uncle, Charles Fournier, encouraged him to pursue painting and often took young Manet to the Louvre. In 1845, following the advice of his uncle, Manet enrolled in a special course of drawing where he met Antonin Proust, future Minister of Fine Arts, and a subsequent life-long friend.”

So one was born into royal family and another into family of a singer. What I found interesting is that both Artists in their early paintings kind of follow the same style. They were born around the same time, so I’m assuming this was pretty much the trend back then, and in their early artwork you can see influence from their teachers. It appears that the preference was portraits and paintings of people.

What happened next is that you can clearly see with Monet that even in his early work he start concentrating on the landscape in his painting as much, if not more, as the people – for example "Woman in a Garden" and "Woman with a Parasol". It seems that the landscape paintings were more appealing to Monet than any other types of paintings.

Manet on the other hand started more like a rebellion. His early artworks were considered controversial, since he painted nude women in some of his artwork – for example "The Luncheon on the Grass".

So one came from "nowhere" and loved to pain landscape even when painting for living, another came from royal family and could afford to paint controversial painting on his way to become famous.

The most interesting thing happens at the end, but throughout their carrier as an Artist you can clearly see how Monet concentrated more and more on landscapes and Manet keeps on creating controversial and 'populistic' paintings. Opposite to Monet, Manet has a lot of portraits, war related paintings and other paintings that go along with social and political life in the country.

I would say that if comparing early works of Monet and Manet, Monet is obviously better. Not because he has a better painting techniques or his paintings standout more, both are actually very much the same in the early works, but one thing that Monet had that Manet did not is a clear sense of direction and style that will eventually make Monet very famous.

There is a very big change towards the end of Manet’s carrier, looks like he is trying to follow Monet’s footsteps and started painting landscape and still life paintings. But, it was too late, Monet was The Artist in this field.

Overall I think the only reason we know about Manet is because he was a populist and could afford to created controversial paintings with his royal family connections and backing. We would probably never hear about him otherwise since there were a few thousand artists in France at the time who had better paintings, but never got popular or famous due to the luck of their family’s political and financial power.

Monet on the other hand is the real thing, the real ARTIST, who chose a style from the beginning and concentrated on polishing and improving his painting technique and skills throughout his life. One obvious thing that helped him to stand out from the crowd is his unique painting style that he developed.

In conclusion – we know about Manet just because he had great PR strategy, we know about Monet because he is real Artist.

Impressionism and Contemporary Art

Mikhail Onanov



  1. Yes, I consider myself a real artist, yet the question can be interpreted many different ways, so this reply is based on my interpretation of your question.

    Mikhail Onanov