a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

Titian, Venus of Urbino, Venetian Renaissance, 1538

(you don't have to memorize this work; just remember what Manet changed and why ...)


Manet, Olympia, 1863

How does this work challenge the tradition of the Academic Nude? Why was it at first accepted into the Salon of 1865, but quickly come to be seen as scandalous? How is it similar to an Academic nude, but what subtle changes has Manet made to present Olympia as a subject, rather than an object?


Manet, Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), 1863

How does Manet’s Luncheon challenge the tradition of the Academic Nude? Why was this work considered scandalous and rejected from the Salon of 1863, while many other nudes were accepted? How has Manet subtly depicted the female protagonist as more of a subject, rather than an object?


Cabanel, The Birth of Venus, French Academic, 1863

How is this a good example of an Academic Nude? How is is it ‘justified’ as high culture, but in fact little more than soft-core pornography? How is the female body depicted as a ‘object’ rather than ‘subject’?


Academic art and Manet


people, terms, and concepts: the Academy, Academic art, the Salon, juste milieu ('happy medium'), the Academic nude, 'subject' versus 'object'

This topic turns to conservative art sanctioned by the state-sponsored Royal Academies in the 19th century, with special attention to the Academic Nude -- then looks at Edouard Manet’s challenge to that tradition.


          What were the roles of the European Royal Academies and Salon exhibitions? Why did governments sponsor art, and what kind of art did they prefer?

          What does ‘juste milieu’ mean, and how was Academic art considered to be a ‘juste milieu’? How does Academic art borrow from Neo-classicism, Romanticism, and Realism but soften or eliminate all of the challenging and controversial aspects?

          What were the characteristics of the Academic Nude? Under what conditions was art depicting nudes (especially nude women) considered acceptable to nineteenth-century critics, patrons, and viewers? Why were such nudes considered ‘high culture,’ and how were they in fact little more than soft-core pornography?

          What does it mean to 'objectify' women?  How do Academic nudes depict the female body as ‘object’ rather than ‘subject’?