Edouard Manet was born in Paris, France; his mother, Eugénie-Desirée Fournier, was the goddaughter of a Swedish prince, and his father, Auguste Manet, was a French judge. He wanted Edouard to also pursue a career in law, but Edouard wanted a career in painting. His uncle, Charles Fournier, encouraged Edouard to be a painter and to pursue painting seriously.
Manet, in imitation of the current style of Realism initiated by Gustave Courbet, painted many everyday subjects like beggars, cafés, bullfights, and other events and scenery. He produced very few religious, mythological, or historical paintings.
One of Manet's most famous paintings at this time is Le déjeuner sur l'herbe ("The Lunch on the Grass"), originally exhibited as Le Bain ("The Bath"). The Salon refused to exhibit it in 1863 but he exhibited it at the Salon des Refusés ("Exhibition of Refused Works") later in the year. Its juxtaposition of dressed men and a nude woman was controversial, as was its abbreviated sketch-like style - an innovation that distinguished Manet from Courbet. However, Manet's composition derived from Raphael's "Judgement of Paris" and Giorgione's "Concert Champetre", both of which included naked women beside fully dressed men. Manet was taking respected works by Renaissance artists and updating them, a practice he had also adopted in "Olympia", a nude portrayed in a style that recalled the early studio photographs of the day, but which was based on Titian's "Venus of Urbino". The foreground nude is Victorine Meurent, Manet's favourite model. The two men are one of Manet's brothers and Rodolphe Leenhoff, Manet's future brother-in-law.
The roughly-painted style and 'photographic' lighting in these works was seen as specifically modern, and as a challenge to the Renaissance works Manet updated. Manet consistently believed that modern artists should seek to exhibit at the Salon rather than abandon it. He became friends with the Impressionists Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, and Camille Pissarro in part through his sister-in-law Berthe Morisot, who was a member of the group. His own work had influenced and anticipated the Impressionist style. However, Manet resisted involvement in Impressionist exhibitions, partly because he did not wish to be seen as the representative of a group identity, and partly because of his disapproval of their opposition to the Salon system. Nevertheless, when Manet was excluded from the International exhibition of 1867, he set up his own exhibition.
Edouard Manet was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government.
He died in Paris and is buried in the Cimetière de Passy, Paris, France.
In recent years, the price for his works exceeded US$26 million.