Manet was the elder statesman of the Impressionists, although he never participated in their exhibitions but continued to compete in the Salons. His unconventional subject matter drawn from modern life, and his concern for the artist's freedom in handling paint made him an important precursor of Impressionism.
Manet was a native Parisian and the son of wealthy parents. He trained with Thomas Couture. His work was founded on the opposition of light and shadow, a restricted palette in which black was very important, and on painting directly from the model. The work of the Spaniard Velázquez directly influenced his adoption of this style.
In Paris he associated with avant-garde writers, notably Baudelaire, who appears in 'The Music in the Tuileries Gardens'. Manet's work became famous at the Salon des Refusés, the exhibition of paintings rejected by the official Salon. In 1863 and 1867 he held one-man exhibitions. In the 1870s, under the influence of Monet and Renoir, he produced landscapes and street scenes directly inspired by Impressionism. He remained reluctant to exhibit with the Impressionists, and sought the approval of the Salon all his life.