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Some people say that the object of one’s art has a lot to say about who the artist is. This just goes to show that an era of art form subject and styles can also tell a lot about how a culture is during that era of its existence, most of the time, that’s why a genre can be created in each period. In the case of the 19th century art, female form has been used as a vehicle for expression by most artists. Some artist argue that this fascination with eastern harems the proliferation of the urban prostitutes and strong Victorian values often fused and collided in the imagery of the day to reveal complex social issues.

The ideals, values, fears, and fantasies associated with the historical moment. They believed that the artist’s fascination with the female form had more to tell than art, they were trying to relay a message about how women were treating in the 19th century. In this assignment, we will try to figure out why it has been that way. For this assignment, I chose the artworks of Edouard Manet and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Jean and Edouard are both artists who portrayed women in their naked form.

Edouard Manet and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres were both French painters and their paintings took the world by storm as they were one of the early painters who took an interest in painting pieces of naked women. Both artists engendered great controversy, and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create. Now let’s start of by analyzing the work of Edouard Manet. Edouard Manet was born in Paris in 1832. Edouard was born into a rich and prominent family. His family was well connected in society in the field of law, royalty and the likes.

(King, 200) In 1845, he explored his inclination for art when he enrolled in a special course of drawing where he met Antonin Proust, future Minister of Fine Arts, and a subsequent life-long friend. From 1853 to 1856 he visited Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, during which time he absorbed the influences of the Dutch painter Frans Hals, and the Spanish artists Diego Velazquez and Francisco Jose de Goya. In 1856, he opened his own studio. His work was mainly focused on the loose brush strokes, simplification of details, and the suppression of transitional tones.

On of his major art work is The Luncheon on the Grass. I also chose this piece for discussion because it depicted the subject of discussion that we had for this assignment which was the Female as subject matter in 19th century art. When Edouard earlier released this piece, the Paris Salon rejected it for exhibition in 1863, in the pursuit to have his art seen he exhibited it at the Salon des Refuses which was well know for showing rejected art later in that same year. According to art critics the painting’s portrayal of fully-dressed men and a nude woman was controversial.

In this painting, Edouard revealed in his composition his study of the old masters, as the disposition of the main figures is derived from Marcantonio Raimondi’s engraving Urteil des Paris after his copy from a drawing by Raphael (King, 2000). In his painting the man is standing to the left and gazing to the side, apparently at the woman, who is sitting in the grass, partially nude, breastfeeding a baby; darkening clouds and distant lightning herald an approaching storm.

Although the relationship of the images are unclear, there is still a consistent theme of naked women amongst fully clothed men (Rewald, 1973). After the Luncheon on the Grass, Edouard made another piece of the naked woman and called it Olympia. Olympia was basically another controversial painting partly due to the nude woman who was is wearing some small items of clothing such as an orchid in her hair, a bracelet, a ribbon around her neck, and mule slippers, all of which accentuated her nakedness, comfortable courtesan lifestyle and sexuality.

In this piece the symbolisms were more clear as the orchid, upswept hair, black cat, and bouquet of flowers were all recognized symbols of sexuality at the time. It was also observed that the woman’s body in the painting was flat, in her flatness it serves to make her more human and less voluptuous. The woman in the painting seemed to have projected confrontation as she defiantly looks out as her servant offers flowers from one of her male suitors. After “Olympia” followed a number launched responses in this genre of art.

Caricatures, sketches, and paintings, all addressed this nude. Both the The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia depicted the presence of prostitution in the French society that time which people don’t normally address. (King, 2006). Now we move on to the life and works of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Ingres was born in Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne, France. His father was a successful man as he engaged in the almost all the different form of arts. His mother was the nearly illiterate daughter of a master wigmaker.

In 1791, Jean Auguste Dominique enrolled in the Academie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture et Architecture. It was in his art training that he created another controversial piece called the La grande odalisque. In explanation to this piece, in his painting the odalisque was not a concubine of the harem, but it was possible that she could become one. Odalisques were ranked at the bottom of the social stratification of a harem, serving not the sultan, but rather, his concubines and wives as personal chambermaids.

If an odalisque was of extraordinary beauty or had exceptional talents in dancing or singing, she would be trained as a possible concubine. If a concubine’s contact with the sultan resulted in the birth of a son, she would become one of his wives. The Odalisque was a common subject in early art since it was subject of paintings by Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1874). In Western culture during the 19th century, odalisques became common fantasy figures in the artistic movement known as Orientalism, being featured in many erotic paintings from that era.

In his piece Ingres portrayed the naked beauty of an odalisque as she is in her natural environment in the premise of a palace naked and exposed to the royalty’s pleasure. Another piece which is the Turkish bath is another the Middle Eastern portrayal by Ingres. Here, he showed the variant of a steam bath and how they have played an important role in cultures of the Middle-East, serving as places of social gathering, ritual cleansing, and as architectural structures, institutions, and (later) elements with special customs attached to them.

In Western Europe, the Turkish bath as a method of cleansing the body and relaxation was particularly popular during the Victorian era. The process involved in taking a Turkish bath is similar to that of a sauna, but is more closely related to the bathing practices of the Romans. In the boom of this kind of 19th century, facinatction with eastern harems the proliferation of the urban prostitutes and strong victorian values often fused and collided in the imagery of the day to reveal complex social issues.

choose 2 artists who deal with subject matter and compare and contrast their works in terms of style and subject matter. discuss the ways in which they are expressive of social and historical circumstances in which they were produced. In both the artworks of Ingres and Manet, we see the portrayal of real women who offer their bodies or expose of them for the pleasures of an easier life as prostitutes do in this day and age.

Ingres may have been more realistic in his art form in depicting the situation of harlems and prostitutes as his lifestyle and family background may have brought him closer to home in seeing the reality and the pains in the life of a prostitute given that he has been revolving in circles that are more in touch with the realities of such practice. Although both painters have started to depict the beauty and art form in the pain an lives of the naked women that they portray, what will always hold true to them is that they portrayed how society allowed this prostitution and kept it as its best hidden secret.

The presence of luxioury in prostitution is also depicted as in all four paintings had the promises of pleasure from material things given to them as depicted in jewelry, slaves attending to them and so on and so fourth. With the early painters like Ingres and Manet taking interest in such form of art, they did not only open a whole new world of possibilities in art, they also opened to society a whole new world of reality that most people have been hiding to make it appear like prostitution or men’s fascination with sex does not exist. Reference:

King, Ross: The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism. New York: Waller & Company Rewald, John: The History of Impressionism, The Museum of Modern Art, 4th revised edition 1973p. 85. Krell, Alan, Manet and the Painters of Contemporary Life, page 83. Thames and Hudson, 1996. Arikha, Avigdor (1986). J. A. D. Ingres: Fifty Life Drawings from the Musee Ingres at Montauban. Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts. Parker, Robert Allerton, 1926, “Ingres: The Apostle of Draughtsmanship”, International Studio 83 (March 1926): pp. 24-32.

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