Sarah Spencer

19th-century French artist Édouard Manet is often credited with playing an important role in the transition from the realism of artists like Gustave Courbet into the novel artistic movement of Impressionism. Manet broke new ground in choosing subjects from the events and appearances of his own era rather than looking back to the precedents of old masters and mythologies, and created a new style by stressing the definition of forms as the arrangement of paint areas on his canvas in preference to achieving a realistic representation. In his essay on Manet, Mallarmé emphasized that “each time he [begun] a picture…he [plunged] headlong into it” and that he felt that in creating any new work, that “the eye should forget all else it has seen, and learn anew from the lessons before it. It should abstract itself from memory, seeing only that which it looks upon, and that as for the first time; and the hand should become an impersonal abstraction guided only by the will oblivious of all previous cunning” (29). Impressionism may have been something entirely original, and as the words of Manet himself illustrate, letting go of previous knowledge and inspirations was encouraged, but the themes of emulation and repetition run rampant in the work of his contemporaries and successors. Leading the charge across the bridge between realism and impressionism, it is no wonder that Manet is imitated by both celebrated realists (i.e. Courbet’s The Stormy Sea circa 1869; Figure 1) and illustrious Impressionists (Monet, The Green Wave, 1866, location)(Figure 2). In the following analysis of these watery works, I will discuss the role of repetition and emulation in 19th century artwork as it relates to Manet (and his Battle of the "Kearsarge" and the "Alabama"; Fig. 3), Monet, and Courbet.


Figure 1. Figure 2. Figure 3.
Figure 4. Figure 5. Figure 6.
Gustave Courbet, The Stormy Sea