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Edouard Manet's Olympia

Episode 1 of 4

Aussie comedian and art historian Hannah Gadsby explores Manet's shock-evoking 17th-century painting ‘Olympia’. From 2015.

Art historian Hannah Gadsby kicks off her comedy lectures about four masterpieces, with Edouard Manet's masterpiece 'Olympia'.

She shares her first encounter with the art work as well as looking at what critics had to say about it at the time it was created.

Born in Tasmania, Hannah's first encounters with art was solely through books. These books taught her the language of art appreciation but they also legitimised her desire to look at 'boobs'. This was just as well as Hannah realised in her teens that she was 'a little bit lesbian' but homosexuality was still illegal in Tasmania at that time.

The painting 'Olympia' was first exhibited in Paris in 1865. It made a lot of people very angry at the time. Here was a reclining nude but this woman had attitude, looking right at the observer with no embarrassment or demureness. She was a whore - what of it?

The woman who posed for the painting was Victorine Meurent, not a prostitute but an artist in her own right and, says Gadsby, surely she had a major influence on Manet's considerably feminist approach to 'the reclining nude' in this painting.

Hannah explains what makes 'Olympia' a cornerstone of modern art and what bring her personally back to this painting again and again.

Hannah Gadsby is assisted in this series by her very own 'Quotebot' who has been inputted with every quote that's ever been written about art.

Quotebot sounds remarkably like comedy legend and all-round boffin John Lloyd.

Written by Hannah Gadsby
Script edited by Jon Hunter

Producer: Claire Jones

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in March 2015.

2 months left to listen

13 minutes

Last on

Last Sunday 23:15


Edouard Manet's Olympia

Edouard Manet's Olympia


Role Contributor
Performer Hannah Gadsby
Performer John Lloyd
Producer Claire Jones
Writer Hannah Gadsby