Alias Olympia (Revised)
DescriptionIn this stylish work of imaginative nonfiction, Eunice Lipton re-creates a provocative figure out of nineteenth-century art history, Victorine Meurent, the mysterious woman who modeled for Manet's most famous paintings, Olympia and Dejeuner sur l'herbe. Was Meurent, as her contemporaries would have had us believe, simply a drunkard, a prostitute? Or was she - whose defiant gaze from Manet's canvas provoked a riot - an accomplished artist in her own right? Through the streets of Paris, an American art historian sets out on an inquiry into the life of Victorine Meurent. As the pieces of an untold story begin to accumulate, something unforeseen happens to her. Every step she takes to undo the erasure of Meurent's life brings her face-to-face with the boundaries of her own. Every day she loses herself a little more in the other woman. Finally, their destinies become inextricably entangled. The historian uncovers, and evokes, the model's bohemian life in Paris: the cafe's and alleys of Montmartre; the painters' studios and salons; the squalor, scandal, and feverish creativity. And Victorine takes the historian on a long voyage home, to the Bronx of her childhood, to her immigrant father's dreams, to City College of the 1950s, and finally to her own repressed desire to be a writer. At once memoir and compelling detective story, Alias Olympia is on the cutting edge of contemporary trends in biography. Why should a life be valued only as a series of accomplishments? Eunice Lipton asks. What if biography were a tale of desire? How, then, would we tell a woman's life?
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About the Author
A distinguished art historian, Eunice Lipton is the author of Looking into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life and, most recently, French Seduction: An American's Encounter with France, Her Father and the Holocaust. She divides her time between New York City and Paris.
"A rare alchemy... a melding of art history and autobiography."-- "Village Voice"
"Beautifully written--brisk, poignant and humorous.... A witty critique of the art historical profession and a sexy, sad memoir with a happy ending. Alias Olympia is the most original art book to emerge from my feminist art generation."--Lucy R. Lippard "Women's Review of Books"
"In this wonderfully digressive blend of art history and autobiography, Eunice Lipton chronicles her search for Victorine Meurent, the model for two of Edouard Manet's most famous paintings, 'Olympia' and 'Dejeuner sur l'Herbe.' In the end, and much to the reader's delight, Lipton has done what she set out to do: rescue Victorine Meurent from history. It is a marvelous recovery."-- "New York Times Book Review"
"Scholarly research-as-usual is converted into a cliffhanger... a pioneering attempt to fashion a counter--or post-academic self in print.... Alias Olympia will Liptonize art historians in the popular imagination."-- "Art in America"
"The elegance and clarity of Lipton's prose make Alias Olympia a joy to read.... Significantly advances our knowledge about lesbians in the visual arts."-- "Lambda Book Report"
"Think of Alias Olympia as a Canterbury Tale; a life-story told on a pilgrimage. It is an exploration in a dizzying variety of senses, from her laborious attempt to unearth the real life of her subject to reflections on her own childhood and career to the igniting effect of the feminist movement to musings on the fact that Victorine and Eunice have a common etymology, both signifying 'triumph.' Alias Olympia stands for part of the truth... but its humanity is entire."--Richard Eder "Los Angeles Times"