Monday Lectures

All You Ever Wanted to Know About Manet’s Olympia and More…

Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863

Musée d'Orsay

Édouard Manet’s Olympia, painted in 1863, was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1865. From that moment on it became the most controversial depiction of the female nude in French history. Criticism of the painting was vicious and other than Émile Zola very few rallied to Manet’s defense. In our lecture we will analyze what caused these vehement reactions to the painting and Manet’s possible or probable intentions in creating and exhibiting it in the Paris of his era. We will see how Olympia remains to this day an extraordinarily evocative picture and how many of the topics of today’s “culture wars” from feminism, sexual exploitation or the legacy of slavery were already present in Manet’s timeless modern masterpiece.

Larry Rivers, I Like Olympia in Black Face, 1970

MNAM Centre Pompidou, Paris