These two paintings were made the same year, 1863. The first one (The Birth of Venus, by Cabanel) was a huge success and was bought by the Emperor Napoléon III. The second one (Olympia, by Manet) was a huge shock and scandal.
It’s a perfect example of the confrontation between classic and modern…
Manet is often called “The first modernist painter”. I’ll talk in another article about this painting, but let’s be quick : there are at least two transgressions here.
- Venus is a symbol, she’s lying on a rock with a very calculated posture, surrounded with pretty cherubs, awwwwe. Innocent as possible. He body is perfectly painted, “as it should be done”, with glazing light…
- Olympia is a hooker, someone brought flowers – a client, who is obviously… you. She stares at you, right? Manet, who perfectly knows how to paint, deliberately paints her not in a dream, but like in reality. She’s a bit pale, and wears slippers!
The painting deviates from the academic canon in its style, characterized by broad, quick brushstrokes, studio lighting that eliminates mid-tones, large color surfaces and shallow depth. Unlike the smooth idealized nude of Alexandre Cabanel’s La naissance de Vénus, also painted in 1863, Olympia is a real woman whose nakedness is emphasized by the harsh lighting. The canvas alone is 51.4 x 74.8 inches, which is rather large for this genre-style painting. Most paintings that were this size depicted historical or mythological events, so the size of the work, among other factors, caused surprise. Finally, Olympia is fairly thin by the artistic standards of the time and her relatively undeveloped body is more girlish than womanly.
(…both are in the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris. If you want to visit the city one day…)
In this article, I watch the second transgression. From him, we begin to really SEE the brush strokes. A painting like this invites you to THINK instead just feeling happy because it’s beautiful.
Look at the chairs and the characters in the front of the Tuileries park in Paris. They are normal. But the trees and the crowd are just… stains.
He opened the way to impressionism…
“What I seek before all else in a painting is a man, not a painting.”
Hitchcock and Wilder, as movie makers, always said that they don’t want to push the audience in a dream, but invent stories or events strange enough to make the audience AWARE it’s a film, to have fun with them. Hitchcock always appears in his films, which is an example.
Brian de Palma (cinema) works like Brecht (theater) about distancing effects, things (like a split screen) which will make break the cinema-dream to put you out and make you think.
Yes it’s a tool, useful for today. Whatever your field, how can you do to use it? Is “Making people aware of the form” modernity? What are the other criterions?
In a post-modern era, or if your audience IS aware, what happens? You use irony, geeky references? How does it work? How can it be boring? How does it fail?
Hmmm. Sorry I have to stop and go to bed.
Thank you for reading!