Tuesday, October 9, 2012
130.5 x 190 cm (51.4 in × 74.8 in)
oil on canvas
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France
The painting was inspired by Titian's Venus of Urbino, which in turn refers to Giorgione's Sleeping Venus. Comparison is also made to Ingres' La grande Odalisque in 1814. Unlike other artists, Manet did not depict a goddess or an odalisque but a high-class prostitute waiting for a client.
Though Manet's The Luncheon on the Grass sparked controversy in 1863, his Olympia stirred an even bigger uproar when it was first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon. The public was infuriated not only by the style, but also by the subject of the picture. "A yellow-bellied courtesan", "a female gorilla made of india-rubber outlined in black", "the Queen of Spades after her bath", "a parcel of nude flesh or a bundle of laundry", and other similar characteristics appeared in newspapers. When words were exhausted some "enthusiasts" tried to finish with the picture physically, and it was saved only thanks to being hung high, above the reach of the fanatics. The work was condemned by Conservatives as "immoral" and "vulgar." However, the work had proponents as well. Émile Zola quickly proclaimed it Manet's "masterpiece" and added, "When other artists correct nature by painting Venus they lie. Manet asked himself why he should lie. Why not tell the truth?" The painting deviates from the academic canon in its style, characterized by broad, quick brushstrokes, studio lighting that eliminates mid-tones, large color surfaces and shallow depth. Instead of a smooth idealised nude, Manet painted a woman whose nakedness is starkly emphasized by the harsh light. The model, Victorine Meurent, went on to become an accomplished painter in her own right.
Édouard Manet (1832 - 1883) was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from the realism of Gustave Courbet to Impressionism. His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, engendered great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the genesis of modern art.
His mother was a woman of refinement and god daughter of Charles Bernadotte, the Crown Prince of Sweden. His father was a magistrate and judge who hoped that Manet would someday follow in his footsteps, but Manet was destined to follow another path. Born into the ranks of the Parisian bourgeoisie with strong political connections, Manet rejected the future originally envisioned for him, and became engrossed in the world of painting. The last 20 years of Manet's life saw him form bonds with other great artists of the time, and develop his own style that would be heralded as innovative and serve as a major influence for future painters. Manet broke new ground in choosing subjects from the events and appearances of his own time and in stressing the definition of painting as the arrangement of paint areas on a canvas over and above its function as representation.
Although Manet was frequently in the company of members of the Impressionist group - Berthe Morisot, his sister-in-law since December 1874, Degas, and Monet in particular, and they regarded him as a leader, he had no wish to join their group. He was naturally irritated by the critics’ tendency to confuse him with Monet. Manet’s stylistic discoveries, such as "there are not lines in Nature", which led to his abandoning of the conventional outline and his shaping the forms by means of color and subtle gradation of tints, decisively influenced the Impressionists, but their representation of light and optical reactions to color were different. Manet never painted what could be called a truly Impressionist picture.
During the Franco-Prussian War he joined National Guard. In 1881 he was received into the Legion of Honor. After a long illness, which had been exhausting him for about 5 years, he died on April 30, 1883.
Posted by merryhaha at 01:41