Sociology and Stone Breakers

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Art History III, Stone Breaker/Olympia summary

Through Graev's article we compare and contrast the iconography of Courbet's The Stone Breakers and Manet's Olympia. Both paintings try to emphasize the classification of the human body. They are similar in that both show humanistic aspects of social structure. That man is engulfed by society and therefore forced into their economic status. In Courbet's The Stone Breakers; the two men, one young the other old, represent the never ending cycle of blue-collar life. In essence, you will be born into a social niche and eventually grow old and die never elevating your status. The lack of facial details helps show that the men are almost indifferent with their lives and have accepted their situation. Society has bought not only their bodies, but their hearts as well. Through its realistic details and lack of glorification, the men are seen for what they are; average, everyday men. This allows for the viewer to relate to the painting and furthermore emphasize the subject matter. With Manet's Olympia, we are led into the world of nocturnal transgressions. A place where the human body is no more then an object with a price tag. Once again, the subject is realistically rendered without any glorification or idealistic undertones. She is also displayed naked as opposed to nude, accentuating her profession and social status. Like The Stone Breakers, she too has accepted the fact she may never elevate to higher social graces, but through her eyes you can sense of empowerment vs. indifference. Instead of being told her value, she has the power to demand her worth and with whom she desires. Even though her body may be for sale, her spirit is not. Lastly, we look into the actual composition of the paintings. They both use traditional technique and style as a base. Courbet uses a large scale common to historical painting. Manet on the other hand, hints to references of Titian's Venus of Urbino, with a small cat...