previews

  • “BLACK MODELS: FROM GÉRICAULT TO MATISSE”

    Musée d'Orsay
    62 rue de Lille
    March 26–July 21

    Curated by Cécile Debray, Stéphane Guégan, Denise Murrell, and Isolde Pludermacher

    When Manet depicted the servant of Olympia, the heroine of his eponymous 1863 canvas, as a black woman, he subverted a long tradition of featuring black figures as mere accessories of white subjects. Based on a specific person—a black model named Laure—Olympia’s attendant possesses aesthetic and subjective presence equal to that of her “mistress.” Yet art historians, focusing on Olympia alone, have long considered only the white side of Manet’s pictorial subversion. This groundbreaking exhibition—an expanded version of the show currently on view in the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University in New York—seeks to redress that bias. The show documents the increased presence of black models in artists’ studios, a phenomenon linked to the abolition of slavery in France, to demonstrate the vital importance of the Parisian black community for the practice of nineteenth-century French painters and photographers. Moreover, it explores revelatory trans-atlantic connections, such as the link between Henri Matisse’s art and the culture of Harlem.