Édouard Manet was at the peak of his notoriety when the young Henri Fantin-Latour exhibited this portrait at the Salon of 1867. Manet himself chose not to submit any work that year, having had his submission rejected by the 1866 Salon jury. In this commanding image of the great French artist, Fantin portrayed Manet not as a painter, but as a flâneur, a sophisticated man-about-town whose eyes are open to every nuance of modern life. The background of the painting is almost completely blank, both in homage to works by Manet and in emulation of photographic portraits of the period.
In 1867, having been regularly rejected by the official Salon, Édouard Manet decided to present a private exhibition of 56 of his works in an independent pavilion close to the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Henri Fantin-Latour’s decision to submit this portrait of his friend—signed “To my friend Manet”—to the Salon that year may have been calculated to play off Manet’s increasing notoriety. A critic admitted that it was hard to reconcile the elegant figure in the portrait with the long-haired bohemian he had imagined Manet to be.