Olympia Manet Analysis

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Manet’s Olympia: sexuality in reality

At first glance, Edouard Manet’s Olympia seems to be just another painting of a naked woman. A more insightful look would reveal the upheaval this single oil painting had caused in mid-1800s France. Olympia confronted France with its bold sexuality and disregard for the traditional style of art. At that time nude women portrayed in art were traditionally historical or biblical in nature; they were not presented as a part of reality. Manet’s crossing of that line caused shock and outrage when his work was revealed to the public at the Salon of Paris. Instead of painting an idealized or perfect woman, Manet painted a woman who was real with flaws and a not entirely perfect body. He took his idea of reality
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The coloring and contrast of dark and light in the painting draw attention to Olympia’s pale skin which is so light it almost blends in with the covering of the bed. Her skin is not glowing or perfect, it is pasty and not idealistically painted. The Khan Academy video points out that her face is not symmetrical or the epitome of beauty and her gaze is not appropriately averted for the comfort of viewers as was the expected style of the time. Another link is the black cat at Olympia’s feet. The cat is looking upon the viewer as if it knows there is someone else in the room, further creating the impression of reality from the painting. A black cat is also said to be a symbol of sexuality or promiscuity at the time the painting was made. Every part of the painting indicates a change from the typical art presented at that time period. Manet created a work that was too modern for society in his time to accept …show more content…
Olympia was accepted into the 1865 Salon of Paris art exhibit, where it was revealed to the public. The public did not react well to the painting. They scorned and mocked the painting for its sexuality. One of the reasons Olympia was attacked according to the web page Manet: Olympia is that even though many men did frequent courtesans, they were scandalized at being confronted with one in an art gallery. Something as confrontational as Olympia was not considered to be ideal art work of a woman and as a result the public threw a fit and criticized the painting publicly. Manet created a work of art too modern for his time and the public was not ready to accept their reality as Manet saw

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