Each painting created by an artist is unique. Nevertheless, it is often possible to find some common features and characteristics in paintings of different artists that lived and worked in different epoch. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the works by Jean-August Ingres “Grande Odalisque” (1814) and Edouard Manet “Olympia” (1865). These paintings seem to be quite similar. This is why it is really important to carefully analyze, compare and contrast both paintings in order to find the existing similarities as well as the unique characteristics which reveal the authorship of these paintings created by two outstanding artists of their times.
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Speaking about these paintings, it is primarily necessary to dwell upon the artist that created them. In this respect, it should be said that the paintings were created by French artists Jean-Auguste Ingres and Edouard Manet which naturally preserved some traditions of French art and who actually had the similar historical heritage. However, it is worthy of mention that the half of the century that separates the two paintings in time was full of important events that could not fail to affect the views of the painters.
In fact, Jean-Auguste Ingres created “Grande Odalisque” at the epoch that followed the French Revolution and the rule of Napoleon. This was the period of great social, economic and political changes that influenced the further development of France and the entire world bringing in new democratic and egalitarian principles and ruining traditional norms and beliefs. As for Edouard Manet, he created “Olympia” in 1865.
This epoch was also characterized by serious socio-economic and political changes since the revolutions of 1848, which simply overwhelmed Europe, still influenced the life of French society while the interchanging restoration of monarchy and creation of republic contributed to the social unrest and permanent struggle of ideologies, moral values and norms. At this point, it is possible to speak about certain similarities in the historical background of the paintings since, in fact, both paintings were created in the epoch of changes in France.
At the same time, it should be said that Ingres rather tends to the classical style while Manet prefers to use a modern one, though the function of both paintings was probably similar. It should be pointed out that the two paintings were quite revolutionary or, at any rate, unusual for the traditional art of France and they were apparently influenced by the revolutionary spirit of their epoch, which both artist attempted to convey through their paintings. Both artists attempted to depict women realistically emphasizing naturalism of their painting. In such a way, they probably attempted to reject the old traditions of French art and, in a way, undermine the existing social and moral norms, to revolutionize social conscience.
This is why the artists emphasized the feminine nature of their models. For instance, “Grand Odalisque” by Ingres depicts a woman that seems to be a typical matron, created to bear children that may be seen from the proportion and accents made by the painter in his work. Similarly, Manet also emphasize the feminine nature of his model, depicting a kind of courtesan. In such a way, both painters, to a significant extent focused on the physiological aspect of the models they depicted in their paintings.
On the other hand, it should be said that there are certain differences between the paintings for Ingres idealized the feminine beauty in his painting creating a kind of perfect woman. In contrast, Manet depicted an ordinary woman, who seemed to be taken from the real life and represented a collective image of French courtesans of that epoch. In such a way, Ingres’ painting is executed in accordance with the canons of beauty which is apparently idealized, while Manet empathized the realism of his painting.
No wander, in order to achieve such an effect the artists used different styles and techniques. To put it more precisely, even though both artists used oil to create their paintings, Ingres uses smooth shading and lines, his painting seems to be more harmonious compared to the work by Manet, which is characterized by rough brushstrokes that are clearly visible on the canvas and the forms are painted quickly and intentionally accurately and realistically.
However, there are certain similarities in the composition of both paintings. For instance, it is possible to clearly distinguish two planes in both paintings: the light foreground and dark background, though Ingres created a more carefully constructed perspective while Manet’s distinction between two planes is quite abrupt. Nevertheless, both paintings concentrate the viewer’s attention on the foreground, while the background is hidden in the darkness.
Furthermore, thematically, the paintings may be viewed as different since Ingres admires female beauty, while Manet emphasizes that this beauty is a bit of routine. On the other hand, it is possible to estimate that the painter used different techniques but they still tended to depict their models naturally, emphasizing their femininity, though, Ingres creates ideal, almost divine beauty taken from ancient legends, while Manet depicts secular, realistic but beautiful woman. Also, it is worthy of mention that it is possible to view the two paintings as a clash of two different civilizations since Ingres painting has Oriental motives, which may be seen in the surrounding of his model, while Manet’s “Olympia” is a personification of a French courtesan and the name of the painting turns to be quite ironic in such a context as if the artist wants to debunk the ancient myth by his realism.
Thus, taken into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that “Grande Odalisque” by Ingres and “Olympia” by Manet perfectly reflected the views of painters on art and reflected their epochs. In such a situation, the similarities of the paintings reveal the similarities of the problems and ideas the artists dealt with in different epochs while the differences reflect the uniqueness of their perception of the world and art as well as the peculiarities of their epochs. This is why both paintings are really worthy of attention and still attract viewers and art critics.—————————————————————————–
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