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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Edouard Manet was a highly significant artist whose opinions and connections were heavily rooted in the rise of Impressionism. Here we examine a number of quotes from his life and career.

Manet's quotes help to open our eyes into the life of this talented artist and also to understand more about his battle to help contemporary art movements gain traction. The impressionists were a thoughtful bunch, who would regularly consider what new ideas and innovations they could bring into the art world. They held a great integrity and desired more to produce the best art that they could, rather than necessarily have a profitable career. We can feel some of this within comments made by Manet, where he would discuss the important of nature to society, as well as the organic beliefs which pushed much of his work.

Famous Quotes by Edouard Manet

He has no talent at all, that boy! You, who are his friend, tell him, please, to give up painting.

Manet to Monet, about Renoir.

There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another.

One does not paint a landscape, a seascape, a figure. One paints an impression of an hour of the day.

It is not enough to know your craft - you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us imagination is worth far more.

There is only one true thing: instantly paint what you see. When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again. All the rest is humbug.

Above all, keep your colors fresh!

You must always remain master of the situation and do what you please. No school tasks, ah, no! no tasks!

There is no symmetry in nature. One eye is never exactly the same as the other.

No one can be a painter unless he cares for painting above all else.

I need to work to feel well.

This woman's work is exceptional. Too bad she's not a man.

Every new painting is like throwing myself into the water without knowing how to swim.

You would hardly believe how difficult it is to place a figure alone on a canvas, and to concentrate all the interest on this single and universal figure and still keep it living and real.

I paint what I see and not what others like to see.

In a face, look for the main light and the main shadow; the rest will come naturally — it's often not important. And then you must cultivate your memory, because Nature will only provide you with references. Nature is like a warden in a lunatic asylum. It stops you from becoming banal.

Conciseness in art is essential and a refinement. The concise man makes one think; the verbose bores. Always work towards conciseness.

There is only one true thing: Instantly paint what you see.

The latest fashion is absolutely necessary for a painting. It's what matters most.

The country only has charms for those not obliged to stay there.

Who is this Monet whose name sounds just like mine and who is taking advantage of my notoriety?

Every time I paint, I throw myself into the water in order to learn how to swim.

The principal person in a picture is light.

One must be of one's time and paint what one sees.

Color is a matter of taste and sensitivity.

I paint as I feel like painting; to hell with all their studies.

Black is not a colour.

There's no symmetry in nature. One eye is never exactly the same as the other. There's always a difference. We all have a more or less crooked nose and an irregular mouth.

If I'm lucky, when I paint, first my patrons leave the room, then my dealers, and if I'm really lucky I leave too.

Concision in art is a necessity and an elegance. The verbose painter bores: who will get rid of all these trimmings?

I would kiss you, had I the courage.

Insults are pouring down on me as thick as hail.

The attacks of which I have been the object have broken the spring of life in me... People don't realize what it feels like to be constantly insulted.

Quotes about Edouard Manet by Art Historians and Fellow Artists

He is credited with popularizing the technique of alla prima painting. Rather than build up colors in layers, Manet would immediately lay down the hue that most closely matched the final effect he sought. The approach came to be used widely by the Impressionists, who found it perfectly suited to the pressures of capturing effects of light and atmosphere whilst painting outdoors. His loose handling of paint, and his schematic rendering of volumes, led to areas of "flatness" in his pictures. In the artist's day, this flatness may have suggested popular posters or the artifice of painting - as opposed to its realism. Today, critics see this quality as the first example of "flatness" in modern art.


French painter who broke new ground by defying traditional techniques of representation and by choosing subjects from the events and circumstances of his own time. His Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), exhibited in 1863 at the Salon des Refusés, aroused the hostility of critics and the enthusiasm of the young painters who later formed the nucleus of the Impressionist group. His other notable works include Olympia (1863) and A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882).


Edouard Manet was a French painter who depicted everyday scenes of people and city life. He was a leading artist in the transition from realism to impressionism.


His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l'herbe) and Olympia, both 1863, caused great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the start of modern art. The last 20 years of Manet's life saw him form bonds with other great artists of the time, and develop his own style that would be heralded as innovative and serve as a major influence for future painters.