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The Reclining Nude

            Among the many subjects one artist can choose, many in the past have elected the recline nude as an interesting model to work with. Édouard Manet's Olympia and Paul Gauguin's Nevermore are two valuable examples of the mastery of the recline nude. Although very similar in genre, they both express the artists' statements in different and clever ways.
             Manet is known for being one of the first instigator of the Avant-Garde period. He was a realist painter who often found his inspiration in the art of the past. Manet painted his Olympia in 1865, it measures 4ft. 3 in. by 6ft. 3in. One of the most striking fact about this painting is that it was criticized for depicting a naked woman rather than a nude, which is emphasized by her bony, unclassical proportions. Olympia is Victorine, a model also present in Le déjeuner sur l'herbe; she was known to be a famous prostitute in Paris. Other hints that send this image of naked rather than nude, are the way Manet decided to paint the sheets, they are wrinkled, suggesting sexual activity; there is also the flowers brought by the servant which clearly have been sent by a client. The shoes she is wearing refer to "streetwalking- and the black cat is a symbol of sexuality, in part because a brothel can be referred as a cathouse'. Olympia caused a scandal when it was exhibited in 1865. Manet found inspiration in Giorgione's Sleeping Venus and Titian's Venus of Urbino. Manet's reclined nude is not distanced from the viewer as Italian renaissance's ones were. This sense of proximity is created by the back wall being really close to the picture plane, separated only by the bed and the black maid. Olympia is also illuminated by a very strong direct light and presents herself very openly to the viewer, without any modesty, staring right outside the canvas, revealing that she is the boss; she decides when and with whom.
             Paul Gauguin's version of a recline nude is expressed in Nevermore, a 1 ft.

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