Édouard Manet was the most important and influential artist to have heeded poet Charles Baudelaire's call to artists to become painters of modern life. Manet had an upper-class upbringing, but also led a bohemian life, and was driven to scandalize the French Salon public with his disregard for academic conventions and his strikingly modern images of urban life.
He has long been associated with the Impressionists; he was certainly an important influence on them and he learned much from them himself. However, in recent years critics have acknowledged that he also learned from the Realism and Naturalism of his French contemporaries, and even from seventeenth century Spanish painting. This twin interest in Old Masters and contemporary Realism gave him the crucial foundation for his revolutionary approach.
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.