Learn from ‘’The Most Outrageous Artwork’’ by Edouard Manet

Edouard Manet Impressionism July's Specials Manet Manet Olympia Olympia

‘’The Most Outrageous Artwork’’ can lead to something! Imagine this, it is 1865, you look cute! and you are in attendance at the prestigious Paris salon,  impatiently awaiting the uncovering of Edouard Manet's new painting "Olympia''. 

The air is filled with excitement and anticipation, the time has come and the artist uncovers his masterpiece... but the atmosphere suddenly shifts and the salon becomes filled with murmurs of indignation! Indeed, you are in awe but appalled by what you are viewing. 

1.Édouard Manet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. - (1832-1883) Olympia 1863
Oil on canvas H. 130; W. 190 cm

We can tell there's a pale naked women on an unmade bed, and to her right, another- fully dressed- women offering her a bouquet of flowers.

So what? Right? The subject of nudity was not even something new to the art scene in Paris, this was already commonly portrayed by painters of the Renaissance and Romanticism movements. 

On the other hand, It’s not a surprise realizing how polemic art can get.... Even “The Kiss, by Klimt” was criticized for being too erotic when it surged! 

The kiss, by Klimt :

Visitors of the Belvedere Museum look at Gustav Klimt´s painting "Der Kuss" (The Kiss). Photo: Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images.

But why did Manet's painting caused such uproar in Paris society back in the 19th century? The difference lies in how Olympia was not your common depiction of nudity… and how Manet managed to magnify a prostitute.

Through the "bad lighting'' it is evident that this is not a mythical creature, or a goddess (which were the more prominent figures in nude paintings....) this was a prostitute!  As shown by the symbolic presence of the black cat, a creature associated with nocturnal promiscuity... 

2. Photo by Steven Zucker

Not to mention, "Olympia" was also a name associated with prostitutes in 1860s Paris.. Additionally, it is said the following matters are symbols of wealth and sensuality:
 the orchid in her hair, her bracelet, the pearl earrings and the oriental shawl on which she lies. Not to mention, the prostitute is being brought flowers by a servant. 

3. Photo by Steven Zucker 

The artwork is so thoughtful! Placing the viewer in the position of a client staring at Olympia, as she looks back, feeling cold and comfortable with herself  (This is not necessarily a position some people want to be in.....)

It was this, an ordinary woman in a real setting that positioned Manet as a leader of the Impressionism, and at the forefront of the Realist movement. 

As I grow as an Artist, I like to nurture myself with story tales by Icons like Manet. 

Discovering the impact of their work, along with their hidden messages gives me life!! Who would'v thought Olympia positioned Manet ahead in the game?   - Artist VIII, Valeria Ll. 

It is enough to say, Olympia's Artwork was not greatly received by critics of the time, who called its coloring 'The horror of the morgue!' and seemed displeased with the dirty, wrinkled subject matter. 

Well, Art is supposed to make us feel something! And I always wonder how does my art makes YOU feel? 

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Blog Authors: Isabela Gaya & VIII
In memory of Edouard Manet (1832-1883): French Impressionist Artist.

1. [[File:Édouard manet, olympia, 1863.JPG|Édouard manet, olympia, 1863]]
2. Steven Zucker, Manet, Olympia, detail with cat (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
3. Steven Zucker, Manet, Olympia, detail with woman holding bouquet (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
4. Clark, T. J. (1999) The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers. Revised edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, p.86.
Richman-Abdou K. (2019). How Scandal Helped Shape Édouard Manet’s ‘Olympia’ into a Modern Masterpiece. Retrieved from https://mymodernmet.com/edouard-manet-olympia/
Stockwell M. (2019). Olympia, One of the Most Scandalous Paintings of the 19th Century. Retrieved from https://blog.singulart.com/en/2019/09/20/olympia-one-of-the-most-scandalous-paintings-of-the-19th-century/


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