Posts Tagged ‘black’

Olympia unfavorably compared to Titian’s Venus

In Courtesan & Prostitute, Critics, Olympia's Degradation on May 11, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Amedee Cantaloube writes in Le Grand Journal, June 22nd, 1865:

“This Olympia is a sort of female gorilla, a grotesque in India rubber outlined in black, apes on a bed, in a state of complete nudity, the horizontal attitude of Titian’s Venus: the right arm rests on the body in the same fashion, except for the hand, which is flexed in a sort of shameless contraction.”

Titian, Venus of Urbino, Oil on Canvas, Uffizi, Florence, 1538.


Olympia, the Venus of Paris, 1863…


Critic Felix Deriege lays a whole trip on Olympia

In Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Baldung, Witches Sabbath

May 21st, 1865

[Olympia] is lying on her bed, having borrowed from art no ornament but a rose which she has put in her towlike hair.  This redhead is of perfect ugliness.  Her face is stupid, her skin cadaverous.  She does not have a human form; Monsieur Manet has so pulled her out of joint that she could not possibly move her arms or legs. By her side one sees a Negress who brings in a bouquet and at her feet a cat who wakes and has a good stretch, a cat with hair on end, out of a witches’ Sabbath by Callot.  White, black, red , and yellow  make a frightful confusion on this canvas; and impossible forms, seize one’s attention and leave one stupefied!

Critic Gautier deems Olympia repugnant

In Critics, Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Theophile Gautier, by Nadar.

Critic and poet Theophile Gautier writes, May 23rd, 1865:

With some repugnance I come to the peculiar paintings by Manet. It is awkward to discuss them, but they cannot be passed by in silence. . . . Many people think it is enough to pass them by and laugh, but that is a mistake. Manet is not without importance; he has a school, he has admirers, even fanatic followers; his influence extends further than is generally realized. M. Manet has the honor of being a danger. But now the danger is passed.

Olympia is inexplicable from any point of view even taken for what she is, a puny model stretched out on a sheet. The color of the flesh is dirty, the modeling non-existent. The shadows are indicated by more or less large smears of blacking.  What’s to be said of the negress who brings a bouquet of flowers in a paper, or the black cat that leaves its muddy footprints on the bed? We would still excuse the ugliness were there only some truth in it, some careful study, heightened by some splendid effect of color. Even the least pretty woman has bones, muscles, skin and some sort of color. Here there is nothing, we are sorry to say, but the desire to attract…

Dirty, dirty, dirty

In Critics, Olympia's Degradation on May 11, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Various comments on Olympia appearing to be “dirty,” May 1865:

  • Unwashed!
  • Cerne de noir (Dark, black circles under eyes)!
  • Ce corps est sale (The body is dirty)!
  • Avec du charbon tout autour (Full of coal, filthy as coal)!
  • The tone of its flesh is dirty, the modeling nonexistent.  Shadows are indicated by stripes of blacking of various widths.

The Critic “Ego” speaks – I despise Olympia

In Courtesan & Prostitute, Critics, Olympia's Degradation on May 11, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Manet, Olympia, 1863.

In Le Monde Illustre, May 13th, 1865.

The “august jeune fille” is a courtesan, with dirty hands and wrinkled feet; she is lying down, wearing one Turkish slipper and a red cockade in her hair; her body has the livid tint of a cadaver displayed in the morgue; her outlines are drawn in charcoal and her greenish, bloodshot eyes appear to be provking the public, protected all the while by a hideous Negress.

All is drawn with coal all around and soft soap in the middle.

No, never has anything so… strange been hung on the walls of an art exhibition.

Manet’s artistic competitor Courbet puts down Olympia

In Critics, Olympia's Degradation on May 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Gustave Courbet, by Nadar.

Artist Gustave Courbet comments, June 3rd, 1865.

She is the “Queen of Spades.”

Bertall pokes fun of Manet and his Olympia characters

In Caricatures, Paris Salon, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 2:43 pm

In Le Journal, June 3rd, 1865.

Conclusion:  Monsieur Manet cleans up his cat’s corner, sends his bouquet to Theresa, and his coal-peddler to Batignolles.  The show is over.  If it occurs to him to do a masterpiece next year, it will be talked about in Podunk.

(Note: Theresa was the most popular cafe-concert singer of the day. Batignolles was the section of Paris where the Impressionists met at the Cafe Guerbois. Podunk means the “middle of nowhere.”)

Olympia called an “ebony-worker”

In Caricatures, Courtesan & Prostitute, Critics, Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Cham, Le Salon, 1865.

In Le Salon, June 2nd, 1865 by Cham.

The Birth of the little Ebony-worker.  Monsieur Manet has taken the thing too literally: The song “How like a bouquet of flowers!”  The announcements are sent out by Mother Michel and her cat.

Olympia derided as sick prostitute with black familiars

In Courtesan & Prostitute, Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 6:00 am

In the journal La Fraternité Littéraire, 1865

What verse! What a picture! Olympia awakes, weary from … dreaming. She has had a bad night, that is evident. Insomnia and colic have disturbed her serenity; her color indicates as much. There are two “black messengers”: a cat which has been unfortunately flattened between two railway sleepers; a negress who has nothing about her that “recalls the amourous night” unless it be a bouquet bought at the florist’s on the corner, and paid for by Monsieur Arthur, which tells me a great deal about Olympia. Arthur is certainly in the antechamber waiting.

Bertall depicts Olympia as needing a bath

In Caricatures, Critics, Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 5:41 am

In Journal Amusant, May 27, 1865

Manette, or the wife of the “ebeniste” by Manet. (The French word for cabinet-maker is derived from ebony.) How like a bouquet of flowers. (Popular song) This picture by Monsieur Manet is the flower of the exhibition.  M. Courbet is outdistanced by the over-all length of the famous black cat. – The great colorist has chosen to depict this lady just when she is about to take a highly necessary bath.