This month's featured oil painting Manet's 'Nana'.
(1832-1883) was born in Paris to an affluent and
well connected family. His mother, Eugenie-Desiree Fournier, was the
goddaughter of the Swedish Crown prince, Charles Bernadotte, from whom the
current Swedish monarchs are descended. His father, Auguste Manet, was a French
judge who expected Edouard to pursue a career in law. His uncle, Charles
Fournier, encouraged him to pursue oil painting and often took young Manet to
the Louvre. From 1850 to 1856, after failing the examination to join the navy,
Manet studied under the academic painter Couture. In his spare time he copied
the old master oil paintings in the Louvre. He visited Italy, Germany,
during which time he absorbed the influences of the Dutch oil painter Frans
Hals, and the Spanish artists Velaquez and Goya.
Nana is an example of one of Manets later artworks
which follows Olympia and Le Dejeuner sur l herbe. This oil painting
is somewhat less shocking then its predecessors because the woman is clothed.
Still she remains similar to the other two oil paintings in her defiant stare
and prominence in the painting. The fact that her male caller is such an
unimportant part of the composition did cause a stir. For a man to play such a
minor role to woman, a courtesan no less, in the same oil painting was not
usually done. Everyone is looking at Nana. The mirror is aimed at her and her
caller is looking at her, Nana is of course aware of her visitor. She in return
stared out from the center of the painting with a slight smile. Nana meets the
eye of the viewer. This was scandalous because it suggested that she was equal
to the viewer or at the very least not ashamed. The fact that Manet is putting
a face on a courtesan and is moving her into the public eye was not something
that was done at the time. Giving the courtesan in this oil painting a name
clearly showed everyone that such people existed at the time. Although everyone
knew they hated to be reminded and pretended that prostitution did not exist.