01/23/2012 08:34 am ET

Happy 180th Birthday Manet!

Today marks the 180th Birthday of Edouard Manet, the outspoken artist synonymous with forward-thinking movements such as Impressionism and Realism. Manet's instructor Thomas Couture encouraged the young artist to develop his own style, which would later shock the art world.

His avant-garde technique and provocative subject matter drew criticism that frequently dogged his career, though it also made him a beacon of hope for a new generation of artists. From the spine-tingling straightforward gaze of 1864's "Olympia" to his revolutionary discussions at the Cafe Guerbois, Manet was an artist that pushed the envelope, skimming the line between the outrageous and the respectable.

Manet made several attempts to supersede norms in the art world by organizing his own exhibitions, allowing the public to view art that was deemed unsuitable by cultural institutions. His family's financial security accorded Manet the freedom to travel the world and start his own studio with Albert de Balleroy where he adamantly displayed art of his choosing, regardless of its initial reception.

Stepping out on his own proved fruitful for Manet later in life as the artist was awarded several honors as critics eventually came around. Though he died at the young age of 51, Manet's legacy is anything but short-lived. Of course, you knew all of this already, but here's some Manet trivia so you can impress(ionist) your friends.

- To appease his father, Manet opted to join the Naval Academy in 1849. After he failed to pass the entrance exam, Manet joined the merchant marines and became a student pilot, traveling to Rio to live it up for a spell.

- Manet fell in love with his piano teacher Suzanne Leenhoff and in 1852 their son Leon was born. To avoid scandal Leon was given to Leenhoff's family and passed off as her younger brother ... and Manet's godson.

- Though the two were rumored to have more than a professional relationship, Manet and painter Berthe Morisot were quick to put a damper on any romantic feelings. Morisot married Manet's younger brother Eugene. Morisot never modeled for Manet again.

- Manet was known for being rebellious, but all he ever wanted was to be accepted. At the Salon of 1880, he was awarded a 2nd place medal, granting him the right to exhibit at all future Salons.

- He is credited with popularizing the alla prima painting technique. Rather than rendering color slowly with layers, Manet applied the desirable hue immediately, a style ideal for capturing light and atmosphere when painting outdoors.

View a hilarious slideshow of art handlers and other interacting with a bevy of luscious Manet masterpieces below, and let us know what you think of the man in the comments section below.

Edouard Manet