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Between and Mortarboard

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After Manet

Accession Number

After Manet

Carrie Mae Weems

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
chromogenic print on paper

33 ¾ in x 33 ¾ in x 1 ½ in (85.73 cm x 85.73 cm x 3.81 cm);33 ¾ in x 33 ¾ in x 1 ½ in (85.73 cm x 85.73 cm x 3.81 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Weems frequently explores the subjects of gender, identity, and racism in her work, questioning stereotypes and received ideas that influence popular opinions about race in the United States. The title of this piece is a play on words, implying that it is both “after” Manet, the great nineteenth-century French painter of modern life, in time and influenced by him—both an homage and a critique.
Weems has said of her art that she aims to write a new history by “linking figures to a historical narrative or tradition, and re-examining that tradition by putting in someone who was never there.” The central figure of the photograph recalls Manet’s Olympia—in which a nude woman reclines on a couch, offering her body to admirers as she defiantly returns their gaze. Behind Olympia a dark-skinned servant proffers a bouquet of flowers. In After Manet the black female subjects play a central rather than a supporting role. The artist presents the young girls as visions of empowered strength and youthful confidence, who unabashedly return the viewer’s gaze. “I want to make things,” Weems says, “that are beautiful, seductive, formally challenging, and culturally meaningful. I’m also committed to radical social change.”

Subject matter
“After Manet” functions as a critique of Edouard Manet’s “Olympia” of 1863 and “Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe” 1862-63 which depict nude women, who are presumably courtesans or prostitutes. Weems feels Manet objectifies these women, portraying them as merely objects of beauty for man’s pleasure, and her work “After Manet” is a careful response, both formally and thematically. In Weems’ work the girls evoke a sense of youthful confidence. Although Manet's Olympia is confidant and self-possessed, it is implied that she is in an economic relationship with the viewer. Weems presents her subjects both as empowered and independent, visions of freedom and optimism, owned by no one.

Physical Description
This image is a circular format black and white photograph depicting four young African American girls wearing floral dresses lounging on a blanket in the grass. Three girls sit or prop themselves up and look at the camera, the fourth girl lays down, with her eyes closed. The glass in the frame has a domed surface, creating a fish-eye effect.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

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African American
appropriation (imagery)
figures (representations)
grass (plant material)
picnic areas

88 Related Resources

Lesson Plan: Understanding Photographs
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
African American Woman Artists
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
F15 Tariq - ENGLISH 125 - Black American Protest
(Part of: U.S. Freedom Struggles of the Long 1960s)
F15 Berrey - AMCULT 103 / HISTORY 197 - Say it Loud: Black Culture in America
(Part of: U.S. Freedom Struggles of the Long 1960s)
Borders of Identity in North America
(Part of 13 Learning Collections)
(Part of 9 Learning Collections)
Postcolonial Art
(Part of 6 Learning Collections)
Race, Gender, Class, and American Identity
(Part of 10 Learning Collections)
W16 Steward - HISTORY 197 - Crossing the Color Line
(Part of: Teaching American Studies at UMMA)
Weems, Saar, Campos-Pons Essay
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
School Pictures Tour
(Part of: Docent Thematic Tours)
Docent Resources for Meleko Mokgosi: Pan-African Pulp Commission
(Part of: Docent Information From Training Continuing Education Sessions)
Docent Materials for Inuit 2: Reflections: An Ordinary Day
(Part of: Docent Information From Training Continuing Education Sessions)
Carrie Mae Weems: AADL Summer Game 2020
(Part of: <b>AADL Summer Game 2020 </b>)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display