Manet’s ‘Olympia’ Will Travel to the United States for the First Time This Fall

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Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863

This fall an unprecedented event in the art world is expected. Édouard Manet’s famous 1863 Olympia will travel from Paris to New York for the first time.

Olympia and other works by the famous artist Manet will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 24 September. The show is called Manet/Degas. It unites Manet with his French compatriot, former friend and rival, the enigmatic Edgar Degas.

The exhibition explores the radical period of French painting through the prism of the tumultuous connection of the artists. Before showing in New York, the works of the great masters were exhibited at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

“Manet and Degas produced some of the most provocative and admired images in Western art,” Met director Max Hollein said.

The Met will feature 160 paintings and works on paper. These are works that trace the thematic and chronological journeys of Manet and Degas, with a focus on the personal relationships, intellectual milieu, and social context that determined their interaction.

In addition to the Olympia, the Musée d’Orsay will provide the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Degas’ recently preserved Family Portrait (The Bellelli Family) and two drawings by Manet Degas. These works of art will also be joined by two other paintings by Manet from the Met’s collection.

In another neat juxtaposition, all four will be united with Degas’s Monsieur and Madame Édouard Manet, from the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, which was famously and enigmatically mutilated with a blade by Manet.

Edouard Manet et sa femme, Edouard Manet et sa femme

This caused serious damage to their friendly relations. But that was not the end of their story. Degas continued to paint Manet long after the latter’s death.

“Manet/Degas” exhibition opens before the birth of Impressionism and delves swiftly into its inception, which parallels the artists’ first meeting in the late 1860s. Manet was born in 1832. The artist quickly established himself with the stunning Olympia and Breakfast on the Grass. Degas was born two years later and achieved recognition along with the Impressionists, which no one claimed.

They were self-proclaimed “realists” of a non-standard kind. The artists operated with a stylistic spectrum skillfully. Of course, there was something that distinguished the artists from each other. Manet emphasized loose brushstrokes, bold colors, and uncanny perspectives. Degas had a pastel palette and pursued movement and intimacy.

“While little written correspondence between Manet and Degas survives, their artistic output speaks volumes about how these major artists defined themselves with and against each other,” Stephan Wolohojian, the exhibition co-curator and head curator of the department of European paintings, said.

Olympia – Edouard Manet. 1863. Oil on canvas. 130.5×190 cm

Created in 1863, the Olympia painting immediately attracted attention. Today, we, sophisticated viewers, find it hard to believe, but a naked girl reclining on white sheets caused an uproar. People were indignant. The majority of them scolded the artist, tried to spit on the canvas, and some even tried to pierce it with umbrellas or canes.

The model for the work was Edouard Manet’s favorite model Quiz Méran. The master was inspired to paint the canvas by just some classics – Titian, Velasquez, Giordano, Goya. Although the canvas bears a clear imprint of Titian’s Venus of Urbino, Manet managed to breathe a completely different character into his work through his own style, as well as an appeal to a real heroine.

It is not only the innovative plot and brilliantly balanced composition that make the painting an exceptional masterpiece. And the color scheme of the canvas deserves special admiration. It is known that after the painting was exhibited at the Salon, the public began to violently persecute Manet, and he was even forced to flee to the provinces, and then completely leave for Spain.

Today, the delightful “Olympia” is ranked among the best paintings ever created, and its author has entered the history of world art as a great and exceptional creator

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