LIFE AS MYTH

Index

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JOURNAL

Index

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JOURNAL 2008

venus

Impressions at sunrise

Finding the inner muse

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SPRING 2008

Artists and models

Index 2008

Victorine Meurent

Olympia

Breaking taboos

Suzanne and Leon

The muse of Manet

A bouquet of violets

Self-portrait with palette

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LIFEWORKS

About

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ARCHIVES

Index

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SPRING 2008
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VICTORINE MEURENT

Young lady. Edouard Manet. 1866. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York. This painting is a response to Young woman with a parrot (1866) by Gustave Courbet (MMA collection). (left) Victorine Meurent. Edouard Manet. 1862. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Victorine Meurent, the featured model in Olympia and Luncheon on the Grass, was an artist and one of significant merit. She came from a family of artisans and had formal training throughout the eighteenth century. The prestigious Salon selected her work for exhibition four times (1876, 1879, 1885, 1904). Meurent was also a woman without money or high social standing and to earn enough money to live, she modeled. Many young women who modeled sold sexual services as well. This was not true of all models but the stigma persisted nevertheless.

Around the time Meurent began formal training in the 1870's, she and Manet parted ways. Her life after that was emblematic of what often happened to young female artists in the nineteenth century. By the 1880's, she had fallen on hard times. A series of love affairs ended badly and made her the target of unflattering gossip. As a result, Manet and his circle shunned her. After his death, she appealed to his widow for financial aid, citing a promise Manet made to share the proceeds from paintings where she had modeled. Mme. Manet refused.

From the 1890's until the end of her life, Meurent moved from place to place, painted when she could, suffered from alcoholism and lived in poverty. At one point, in an attempt to capitalize on her notoriety as a way to sell paintings, she printed business cards with the words: I am Olympia.

Only one painting of Meurent's own work has survived: Les Rameaux/The branches (1885). It sold to a private collector in 2004. Her most enduring identity, therefore, is the one that Manet created. History remembers her, like many female artists of the nineteenth century, as the object of the artist rather than the artist herself.

 

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