Yale marks 150th anniversary of Manet’s landmark paintings

In 1863 artist Edouard Manet painted two landmark works, “Dejeuner sur l’herbe” and “Olympia,” which confounded traditional painting conventions and ushered in the movement known as Modernism. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Manet’s masterworks, and the Yale School of Art and Department of the History of Art are honoring the occasion with an exhibition and conference.

The exhibition, “Lunch with Olympia,” will run Sept. 20–Nov. 21 at the Yale School of Art’s 32 Edgewood Avenue Gallery. There will be an opening reception for the public gallery on Friday, Sept. 20 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

On view will be approximately 30 works ranging from 1863 to the present that are based on or inspired by Manet’s two historic paintings. Highlights include Manet’s etching of “Olympia” and works by Paul Cezanne, Raymond Duchamp Villon, Stephen Prina, Lyle Ashton Harris, Sally Man, and Carrie Mae Weems, among others. There will also be an illustrated timeline of great works inspired by Manet that are not featured in the exhibition.

Organized by Carol Armstrong, professor of the history of art, in collaboration with Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art, “Lunch with Olympia” is drawn from the collections of the Yale University Art Gallery, artists, and private lenders. It has been made possible by the support of an anonymous donor. The exhibition is open to the public free of charge Tuesday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m.

It was Armstrong who first raised the issue of how Yale might honor the anniversary of Manet’s historic works, “It has been said that “modernism” began in 1863, with two scandalous paintings painted by Manet,” she said. “One hundred and fifty years later we celebrate that year, these two paintings, and the ‘Salon des Refusés,’ in which one of the ‘Déjeuner’ was exhibited.”

Armstrong also noted that both paintings have been riffed on repeatedly by artists, leading up to the current moment. “The two paintings were themselves responses to Old-Master works in Europe’s museums and in the mass-produced print culture,” Armstrong said. “As much as they may be understood as the origins of “modernism,” they may also be seen as the earliest forays into the world of “post-modernism” too.”

In connection with the exhibition, Armstrong has organized the conference “The Olympiad: Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Manet’s ‘Olympia’ and ‘Dejeuner sur l’herbe.’” Sponsored by Yale’s Department of the History of Art and the Department of French, the program will take place Sept. 21–22, at Yale’s Loria Center for the History of Art, 190 York St. Keynote speakers include Armstrong, Anne McCauley from Princeton University, and Baptiste Brun from the Université Paris-Ouest Nanterre. The conference will also feature speakers from the Musée D’Orsay, where “Olympia” now hangs, and two artists who have works in the exhibition, Manon Elder and Agnès Thurnauer.

To register for the event, which is free and open to all, visit yaleolympiad.com. The conference has been made possible by the support of the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.