However, Manet's work has had many admirers since the very beginning of his career; an admiration that continues today.
Édouard Manet's career in art began when his uncle Edmond Fournier took him to visit the Louvre in Paris as boy, encouraging young Édouard to pursue a career in the arts, as opposed to becoming a lawyer, as his parents had planned for him.
In 1845, at the age of 13, Édouard Manet enrolled in a drawing course, also with the encouragement of his uncle Edmond. While attending the course, Édouard became acquainted with Antonin Proust (no relation to the famous writer Marcel Proust) and thus began a lifelong friendship.
When Édouard Manet painted this portrait of his friend Antonin Proust in 1880, Proust was rapidly rising in the world of French politics. After finding success as a journalist, founding the journal, La Semaine hebdomadaire, and working as a war correspondent for Le Temps during the Franco-German War, Proust entered into politics and the French Chamber of Deputies, becoming the Minister of Fine Arts.
In this painting, the Portrait of Antonin Proust, the journalist and politician looks impeccable in his sophisticated attire. Proust's top hat is tilted just so, casting a bit of shadow over his eyes. In his hands, he holds his cane and yellow gloves in one hand, while the other rests casually on his hip. Proust's posture and his urbane style of dress work together to create a portrait of a modern man about town.
Just after its creation, Portrait of Antonin Proust was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1880 and Manet was lauded for not only his "supple and spirited" creation, but also for his "bold and decisive brushwork" in his depiction of his old friend.
The following year, in 1881, at the suggestion of Antonin Proust, the French government awarded the prestigious Légion d'honneur to Édouard Manet. Sadly, over the next couple of years, Manet fell ill and passed away in Paris in 1883. Proust followed his old friend in 1905.