NWC News Desk

Art historian Henry Sayre looks at mystery behind a masterpeice on Thursday, April 10

Posted March 27, 2008

P O W E L L, W y o. - On Thursday, April 10, noted art historian Henry Sayre will explore the backstory of a controversial painting that caused an uproar in France in 1865 and still continues to challenge viewers to this day.

His presentation, titled "Value in Art: Mystery behind a masterpiece," begins at 6:30 p.m. in Room 70 of the Fagerberg Building on campus. It's one of several events scheduled the second week in April as part of the college's Spring Arts Festival.

Sayre's presentation will focus primarily on Edouard Manet's painting "Olympia." Sayre will provide the context and behind-the-scenes details about the work that caused an unprecedented commotion when it was unveiled at the Paris Salon in 1865.

French painter Manet is considered a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. He was one of the first nineteenth century artists to approach modern-life subjects. His "Olympia" isn't his only controversial work, but it is one of his most famous and considered by many as one of the rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism.

In the painting, Manet borrowed on the respected work of Renaissance artist Diego Velázquez's "Rokeby Venus." After its unveiling, the painting's challenging and conflicting messages on female sexuality lit a firestorm of caricatures, sketches and paintings in the French press. The painting is now considered one of the sign posts leading to the modern art movement.

Sayre is a Distinguished Professor of Art History at Oregon State University and author of "A World of Art," which is the leading art appreciation text in the country. He's also the author of several other projects, including the children's book "Cave Paintings to Picasso: The Inside Scoop on 50 Masterpieces," as well as the PBS television series "World of Art: Works in Progress."

Admission to "Value in Art: Mystery behind a masterpiece" is free.

Click here for information about other events in the NWC Spring Arts Festival.