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Jean Francois Millet, 1857
Grand Palais
Oil on canvas

-dehumanizes them (don't see faces- sweeping generalization *don't have an identify)
-blaring color of sun (lunchtime) *significance and effect of color
-technique is softer
-daily struggle to survive (don't even interact w each other)

Millet's profound respect for the timeless dignity of human labour. (Note: 'Gleaning' describes the activity of collecting leftover corn and other crops from farmer's fields after the harvest.) It depicts three peasant women each involved in one of the three aspects of gleaning: searching for ears of corn, picking them up and tying them together in a sheaf. The task was backbreaking but made an important contribution to the diet of rural workers, and was one of the main tasks undertaken by French peasants at the time. Millet himself spent almost a decade researching the process.

The painting's focus on the lowest ranks of rural society attracted considerable opposition from the upper classes, who were upset by its artistic pretentiousness and its social radicalism, and linked it with the growing Socialist movement. It was however accepted for display at the annual Salon of the Academy. Furthermore, it was greatly admired by French republicans for its dignified and realistic appreciation of the rural poor.

Millet paid close attention to its composition, using every device to imbue his subjects with a simple but monumental grandeur. The angled light of the setting sun accentuates the sculptural quality of the gleaners, while their set expressions and thick, heavy features tend to emphasize the burdensome nature of their work. Furthermore, these figures, bent double and toiling in the darkened foreground, are set against a warm pastoral background scene of harvesters - with their haystacks, cart and sheaves of wheat - reaping a rich harvest in the corn fields. The contrast between abundance and scarcity, and between light and shadow, is cleverly used by Millet to emphasize the class divide. And the remoteness of the landlord class is also highlighted by the blurry image of the landlord's foreman, sitting on a horse in the remote distance (right).

The entire composition is in fact a commentary on the social classes of France and, in particular, on the inability of the lower classes to rise above their station. The three women are shown bent over, so they do not pierce the horizon, confirming that what we are born into is where we stay. Meanwhile, the uppermost line of ground is occupied by peasant farmers watched over by the foreman, none of whom break the horizon either. The sky symbolizes the unattainable upper class of society that looks down on its inferiors. It is as different from the other people as air is to earth.
Manet, 1863
Muse D'Orsay

Manet captured the real life people of Paris. This was not always a popular thing to do as was made evident by the fact that when Manet's painting, Olympia was hung, in 1863, viewers had to be physically restrained so that they would not to ruin it. The fact that this woman, a courtesan, is given a face, was cause for a lot of uproar. It humanizes prostitution which was not, in a time where no one wanted to be reminded of the shadier side of life, a very popular thing to do.

-Manet painted this picture with strong brush strokes many people considered this a childish and unskilled fashion of painting.
-Manet based the composition of this painting on The Venus of Urbino, by Titan.
-The maid is presenting Olympia with a gift of flowers, presumably a gift from a lover. This type of scene was not generally portrayed.
-The French practice at the time suggested that women were to be modeled on historical, mythical or biblical themes.
-Manet painted a woman of his time but not the ideal woman, a real woman, a courtesan.
-The way in which this is painted, with the startling contrast between the dark of the background and the light of Olympia lying on her bed draws much attention to the subject of the painting.
-Manet's model, Victorine Meurent, is depicted as a woman who's body is a commodity.
-Although middle and bourgeoisie gentlemen did frequent courtesans they did not want to be confronted with one in an art gallery.
-Olympia is a real woman, flaws and all who stares out from the canvas at us, confronting us with an unwavering glance. This in itself was a cause for outrage because this woman dares to stare out, meeting the eye. It was scandalous for a woman in general, let alone a courtesan, to be so brazen as to stare directly at anyone.
-Olympia's only adornment consists of shoes, a bracelet, a flower in her hair and a string around her neck.
-She looks almost bored at the prospect of another gift, suggesting that this is not a first time occurrence or something to be overly excited about.

Flickr Creative Commons Images

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