This is my Gonzo style review of Edouard Manet’s Olympia… As this week’s writing challenge so requires! I should I say that I did visit this museum a couple of months ago; evidently, however, I have embellished the visit with some fiction! I hope that it reflects ‘Gonzo’ style journalism… if not I can only apologise for the absurdity in advance!
The Musee d’Orsay. I stepped off the boat and looked up… here I was. Another museum, another queue. I left behind the shaded, cool dock of the batobus (a floating bus… sort of… alright an expensive floating bus) and climbed the steps up towards the entrance. The bright mid-day sun hit my eyes almost immediately as I reached top. I squinted, and glanced over the road at the museum, searching for the entrance. It was directly in front of me… As usual there was a queue to enter. As usual I wasn’t sure if I actually needed to join it due to being under 25 and having a UK passport… sometimes you get to skip the queue because you get in for free, and thus don’t need a ticket. Not seeing any signs, or people to ask, I crossed the road, jostling with tourists coming the other way for the batabus, and decided to join the queue.
30 minutes later I reached the neatly coifed French woman sat behind the desk…
“That eez fine madame, you do not require a ticket.”
“I needn’t have queued.”
“That eez correct”
“You really should invest in clearer signs…”
I took a map and started to trudge around the museum. (By this point, having seen quite a few, I was getting rather tired.) Having tackled The Louvre on the previous day without a map I decided to do it properly this time – be a good little tourist. I took my pen and began to draw on the map the exact route that I took through the museum. I did this as I walked through every room. (I know… there are whole new levels of geek you say… I hear you!)
I carried this on extremely methodically. Whilst doing this it struck me how little attention everyone was paying to anything… It’s amazing how many people come to museums without really looking at the artwork. They sit on benches, they take pictures, have coffee, buy a postcard, pretend to talk about clever brushstrokes, sit on a bench, go to the toilet, then leave. Maybe you get an old couple who feel the need to stop in front a few of the works, and they then stare for the required amount of time; have a bit of an intellectual-sounding conversation, before moving on…
“Good perspective in this one, wouldn’t you say Martha?”
“Oh yes. Definitely John. Definitely… Good use of light also… Really makes the difference… Good work all round. Decent brush work.”
“Yes, Yes. Indeed.”
“Hmmm… Coffee break?”
Then lets not forget the Japanese guided tour groups… you will always run across one of these. I won’t attempt the conversation but lets just say there are a lot of photographs involved. Lots and lots of photographs. My head has probably made it into a fair few.
Anyway… I gradually made my way around until somewhere towards the end of my loop around the ground floor I came across a small side room. I stepped down into it and was suddenly taken aback – in the room was one of my favourite paintings! Edouard Manet’s Olympia. In all its glory. I had studied this at University; it fascinated me. I had completely forgotten it was here!
Having reached something of a high point I felt I could sit at this point. Take a minor rest. Maybe I was rather tired actually; my eyes were starting to feel a little bit heavy…
“Where am I?” I woke with a start.
It was bright. Flat. why was it so flat? Oh my lord I was in the painting. I was actually in the painting… Wait, wait wait… I was asleep wasn’t I? Nevermind… Go with it I told myself.
So, it was very flat in here. Not a fan of perspective this Manet guy. You could tell the whole thing was almost a parody. Manet was definitely mocking Titian and Goya – perspective? Who needs it? Look what I can do without it! The flatness made the naked woman seem very direct. I felt a little bit uncomfortable being here – almost like interrupting someone having sex. Not as calm as one might imagine feeling next to an airbrushed nude… Titian’s Venus for instance. It didn’t feel alright to be stood here, if you know what I mean. Imagine the difference between standing in a room with Beyonce posing for Vogue, and a man taking pictures of his mistress in his wife’s bedroom…
The flowers in the slave’s hand smelled beautiful… fresh I would say. Fresh flowers, from a client? She was definitely a prostitute. I could tell. Her necklace. Her hair. Her position; her hand was placed very awkwardly. Covering her dignity in a way you wouldn’t see in a classical picture – she was covering herself whilst waiting for a man. She wasn’t posing in a mythical, ethereal, way.
I had an urge to open the curtains… a window, some light some perspective. Move the cat to the front of the room – that would add some depth. But no. I must leave as I found it… that bed/couch was looking very comfortable…
“Hmm?! What?” I was drooling. I think I was drooling. Crap…
“You should not sleep in ze gallerie.“
I wiped the saliva from my chin. “Yes, right. Got it. Sorry.”
Maybe it was alright to have coffee. I mean I had been incredibly thorough after all… Maybe even a cake. A pastry. Hmmm cake…