Cool little Guardian article: The Naked Truth.
Manet’s favourite model, Victorine Meurent, has often been dismissed as a drunk and a prostitute. But as V.R. Main discovers, she was actually an ambitious artist.
It was more than a century after Edouard Manet’s death that the art historian Eunice Lipton discovered that his model, Victorine Meurent, had actually lived to be 83. And it seems unlikely that she was his grisette – a young woman in a casual relationship with an artist – let alone a prostitute. Most importantly, Lipton realised that Meurent had fulfilled her painting ambitions and exhibited at the 1876 Salon – in the same year that Manet’s work was rejected.
The question remains: why was Meurent so dismissed by the painter’s biographers? After all, Manet’s inner circle seems to have recognised her importance. The artist’s close friend Antonin Proust noted in his memoirs that Meurent was Manet’s favourite model; Jacques-Emile Blanche, who also knew the painter, was moved to ask, “How often does a chance meeting between a painter and a model decisively influence the personality of his works?”