a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

academic art and manet

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

Academic art: Know the character of Academic art after David as a 'juste milieu' or happy medium (a tame, inoffensive, watered-down combination of most popular and least controversial aspects of Classicism, Romanticism, and Realism), and know that the increasing conservatism of the Academy and the annual Salon exhibitions widened the gap between the Academicians and the independent artists or 'modernists'.  What were the characteristics of the Academic nude? How are they visible in the Cabanel below?  Although such works were very popular in their time, today they are seen as exemplifying a tendency, in popular culture as well as art, to depict the female body as a passive object of male desire and activity, rather than an active subjects with a will and agency of their own.

Manet vs. the Academic nude:  Be able to discuss Manet's Olympia and Déjeuner as parodies of the Academic nude and the male viewers of such nudes (it is a complex parody and will be hard to write about, so don't just think 'yeah, I remember that' -- think about it again: how is Manet's Olympia similar to a typical Academic nude? how is it different? Think especially about the differences between the Olympia and Titian's Venus (below), which served as its model, and how those differences subtly deny the passivity and objectification of the title character).

Titian, Venus of Urbino, Venetian Renaissance, 1538

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

Manet, Olympia, c. 1865

Manet, Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), c. 1865

Cabanel, The Birth of Venus, French Academic, c. 1865