The Sleeping Venus by Giorgione, the First Female Reclining Nude in European Painting; 1510

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The art of portraying a female nude has come a long way since 24,000 B.C.E. when a small, female figure was carved by our ancestors. Venus of Willendorf was a first step in a long history of artists, styles and conventions that brought us to what art critics named the first truly modern painting: Olympia. Great milestones were accomplished along the way: Praxitales’ Aphrodite was the first Greek female nude. The Sleeping Venus by HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giorgione"Giorgione, was the first female reclining nude in European painting. Countless artists strived to paint or sculpt the most perfect or intriguing idea of feminine beauty. This brings us to 1800s and a new stylistic approach that came with drastic changes in socio-economic structures. XIX century was a unique time in European history. Due to the industrial revolution, unprecedented changes occurred in the social structure. Free trade and countless inventions in technology were a major cause in the creation of the middle class and a growing working class, as more and more farmers were moving into the cities to work in newly built factories. A wave of revolutions and violent movements swept through the continent.

Artists who worked during that time were increasingly more independent in their opinions and they often became harsh commentators of what they viewed as unjust or worth documenting. This new atmosphere brought about Realism – a movement in arts that favored common subjects that were thought unworthy in academic circles: farm workers, manual laborers, and lower class individuals. The subject of Manet’s’ Olympia was well within that canon: the painting is a portrait of a real Parisian prostitute who was well known during that time. By contrast, Ingres’ The Grande Odalisque is a truly Romantic painting. Romanticism, that occurred before Realism was a philosophy that favored imagination and sensuality above the real and the rational. It was a vast movement that encompassed not only...
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