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.