|A page from the amazing|
"Whatever Happened to Victorine Meurent?"
Read about the comic's artist, Victoria Morris,
at her blog here.
Until you're sick, you forget how fantastic it is to breathe through your nose. No, don't laugh. I'm very serious about that. I really dislike being a mouth-breather. It's behavior *affecting a British accent* unbecoming a lady. Ha!
What's this on the left, you ask? Only something totally awesome I found here: Whatever Happened to Victorine Meurent? It's a comic (this is page three, on the left, which details Victorine's early life).
Who is Victorine Meurent, you ask? Only Manet's most enchanting model. And I say enchanting because the girl had some incredible self-possession.
Whether art history likes it or not, Victorine Meurent has become one of Western art's most iconic female figures, despite the fact that this same figure was ridiculed by critics in the worst possible terms when it went on display (in painted form) in the 1870s. But who hasn't somewhere seen Le dejeuner sur l'herbe, where Victorine levels her gaze at the viewer in a way that indicates--even if she were there in person--she would neither blink nor avert her eyes. And surely you've seen Olympia, where she poses as a naked courtesan presented with a gift of flowers from a customer by her maid. These are essential works in any survey of Western art, and sadly, Victorine has likely never gotten to appreciate one iota of her fame.
In fact, Victorine was a painter herself, one who was extremely talented. She exhibited repeatedly in the Paris Salon before even Manet enjoyed acceptance there. But her work was marginalized, perhaps because she was a woman or perhaps because recognition of her face and figure in Manet's paintings created a stir that eclipsed her own professional efforts. By 1879, she had been shut out of Manet's circle because her tendency towards free love incited violent jealousies among the men (I'm sure retrospective telling has toned down the scandal, and at the time, the gossip and examples of wounded pride were much more dramatic).
The comic (again, whose page three is visible above) gives a visual history of Victorine's life, and the author (whose name I haven't been able to find...Who are you? I'd love to give you credit because what you've done is totally wonderful!) has done some amazing excavations to fill in the long informational gaps that exist in Victorine's biography.
Victorine's GLBTQ encyclopedia entry, which I also gleaned from the comic's bibliographic page, indicates that in the early 1890s, she was the "intimate friend" of a courtesan named Marie Pellegrin, but had also turned to alcoholism. Yet, she continued to paint into the early 1900s and was still listed among professional artists. Then, she lived in the suburbs of Paris with a woman named Marie Dufour, a secretary and piano teacher.
Really, period critics, even many art historians have consistently given Victorine a raw deal. I am glad to see that she is not forgotten. She is a kind of hero to me, in the same way that my favorite chain-smoking, baggy-eyed male intellectuals are. She simply was, and although I'm absolutely certain I don't know the whole story behind Victorine's emotional life, she never apologized for being Victorine that I know of. And this is something to celebrate. It really is, since pretty often, life can be tough.
When I was in graduate school, I focused on the German Modernists and my boy George Grosz (whom I realized, sort of looks like Michael...hmmm...coincidence? I don't know.), but I was also lured by the Impressionists....not so much by their painting, but by their milieu: the theater crowds; the demimonde; the horse races, the absinthe, the flamboyant and disgusting beauty of the prostitutes. All of this fascinated me. Still, the frothy atmosphere Monet offered and the ballerina tulle Degas often choked me with made Impressionism somehow less potent than the angry absurdism of the Dadaists or the outright emotionalism of the Expressionists (okay and I dug the Post-Impressionists, too, but I won't get all the swank terms out of my tackle box right now *closing the lid*).