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June 2008, vol 4 no 2

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Jeffrey Woodward

 

Picnic on the Grass

Toulouse-Lautrec delighted in introducing Victorine Meurent as Olympia. Something of the scandal of the Salon and of Manet's painting still hung about that démodé model like a pendant decades later—there in the red, no, the flaming coifs of hair and, even more disarmingly, in her direct, her even stare.

In 1863, barely nineteen, Victorine is where popular innuendo leads, in the Bois de Boulogne , in that urban park renowned for liaisons between proper gentlemen and prostitutes. Victorine is unabashedly nude and seated before two impeccably attired French dandies, the centerpiece of Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, Victorine with that perplexing smile and unflinching stare, Victorine right there for all of Paris to see.

dipping a broad brush
into fresh paint—
the first day of spring

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