Edouard Manets Olympia - Essay Example

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She looks at you nonchalantly, free of unconscious inhibitions. Another woman, a black servant, appears excited as she presents her lady a bouquet of flowers, presumably a gift from one of her avid patrons. The painting has an air of bawdiness, mockery even, to target moral pundits and conservatives to have emotional trauma or turbulent seizures because of its brave rawness, primarily upon seeing an apparently bored courtesan in the sublime state of undress.
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Edouard Manets Olympia
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Download file to see previous pages However, young Edouard rebelled against the will of his father, who wanted for him to become a lawyer. He went to follow his passion of studying painting at the Louvre, and abroad in Holland and Italy.1 His work, constantly refused by the establishment, received the support of his close friend Baudelaire and was inspired by Velazquez, Rembrandt and Titian. Manet painted a wide variety of subjects (seascapes, still lifes, portraits, as well as urban, religious and historical scenes) and his most famous paintings are Musique aux Tuileries, Djeuner sur l'Herbe, Le Fifre, Un Bar aux Folies-Bergres and of course, Olympia. Supported by Emile Zola, he also painted his portrait in 1866.2
When he died in his early 50s, the Impressionists were making art that insisted it was of the moment - a train steaming out of a station, rain on the boulevard, Manet's art is at the forefront of this discovery of contemporary life during their time.3
To this day, numerous artists had begun to challenge the stale conventions of the Academy when Manet's Olympia was accepted for the Salon in 1865. Never had a work caused such scandal. Critics advised pregnant women to avoid the picture, and it was relegated to thwart vandals. She is not a remote goddess but emphatically in the present, easily recognized among the demimonde of prostitutes and dancehalls.4 Viewers were not used to the painting's flat space and shallow volumes. To many, Manet's "color patches" appeared unfinished. Even more shocking was the frank honesty of his courtesan: it was her boldness, not her nudity, that offended. Her languid pose copied a Titian Venus, but Manet did not cloak her with mythology. In Olympia's steady gaze there is no apology for sensuality and, for uncomfortable viewers, no escaping her "reality".5
Anthony Julius agrees with that premise of "escaping reality." In his book, Shock and art Transgressions: The Offenses of Arts (2001), he deems that such art succeeds by alienating people, exposing our prejudices, sabotaging our habits. So Manet's Olympia, a naked prostitute in a classic pose, stares back at us, unmasking the centuries of male dominance and voyeurism disguised as an interest in the artistic nude of myth and history. He claims that the purpose of the painter, which is to convey his artistry is concealed by the shock value and diminishes its semblance of value as an art.
In Heschel's analysis of Geiger's study of the "Jewish Jesus" (1988), she draws an analogy to Manet's Olympia, whose direct stare at her audience discomforted a world used to the demure artistic portrayal of women and concluded that it was "unchristian" and making it less of a scholarly gaze. Geiger's Jewish study of Jesus unsettled the Christian, or at the very least culturally Christian, academic world. According to Heschel, by reversing the situation in which Christians, especially the biblical critics of the age, wrote about Judaism to one where Jews wrote about Christianity, Geiger made a major adjustment to the power relations between the two religions. Where Christian theologians excoriated Pharisees and Pharisaism, Geiger argued purposely that Jesus was a Pharisee par excellence; the ideal that Jesus preached so ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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