Saturday, April 30, 2011

!00 paintings that shook the world!

58) Olympia, by Edouard Manet 1832- 1883

From a wealthy family, Manet was a student of Thomas Couture. Like many of his generation he was enamored with the bravura style painter, Velazquez. The painting was exhibited at the Salon and caused a scandal. The model is so naturalistic and probably a prostitute. The irreverence and sauciness of the subject were shocking in 1863. There were always lots of nudes about, but they were idealized and not presented with this frankness. I however think she is lovely, just the same and I forgive her everything.

A great white shape silhouetted against a dark background and simplified and flattened, Olympia has a bit of influence derived from Japanese prints. There is very little rounded modeling within the figure. This was contrary to the prevailing academic "look" at the time too.Despite the poke in the eye to the public, the picture actually has deep roots in classical painting, it's based partly on Titian's Venus of Urbino.

Notice how stark and flatly lit the Manet is,next to the softer more voluptuous Titian. The immediacy of its presentation was much of why the painting was scandalous. I imagine that Titian's model was a Sunday school teacher relaxing on her day off.

I believe I will return tomorrow and write more about Manet,he's an interesting character.


Mike Thompson said...

I have a copy of the BBC miniseries ''The Impressionists'' which I have watched numerous times, my main complaint being that it vastly oversimplifies the size of the group and who influenced them and who they influenced. That said, the miniseries depicts Manet as being one of the key influences of the group.

In the miniseries, Manet was pretty much ''in your face'' with respect to the Salon and fought with it for years because it controlled who got to exhibit the ''serious'' work in Paris. You showed there, or you starved. Olympia may owe its origins to Titian and others, but if the Titian is a school marm relaxing on her day off, Olympia is strictly a ''working girl'' on her break. If she had been as demure as the young lady in the Titian, she would have used her other hand to hide the animal at the foot of the bed, too. You'd have to have just come out from under a rock to miss the message Manet was sending to the snobs at the Salon by including her Tabby in the painting.

By the way, the word verification word to send this is ''cattie''. How weird is that?

jim said...

My understanding is that she is Victorine Meurent, see also Dejeuner Sur L’herbe. I heard she was a prostitute in art history in college. Subsequently, I learned that she also was a painter. (Hmmmm?) Go to Google Images search for victorine meurent Palm Sunday.

alotter said...

Man, I just don't get it. Why is the less voluptuous nude more shocking? Coy and demure equals tantalizing?

Thanks, Mike, for pointing out the cat, which being black, is very hard to make out. "Tabby" it isn't though.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think that the war between the academics and the impressionists was short lived and overhyped. Within a few very short years everybody had some impressionist chops.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Evidentally she was a prostitute. Victorine sounds like a sour fruit made of white porcelain.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The flat lighting and the immediacy of the unstylized figure is what makes it shocking it is as much a naked individual girl as it is a nude. It is more personal than the usual academic nude.

Mark Heng said...

The best documentary I've ever seen on Impressionism. By the way, he talks about the model in Olympia, Victorine. She appears in quite a few of Manet's paintings.

2004 - Impressionism, Revenge of the Nice
Matthew Collings :: Impressionism, Revenge of the Nice (2004) Matthew Collings describes the revolutionary artists whose paintings shocked the art world. Courbet, Manet, Monet and Cezanne.