After ManetArtist(s)Carrie Mae WeemsArtist NationalityAmerican (North American)Object Creation Date2002-2003Medium & Supportchromogenic print on paperDimensions
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 LineMuseum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry FundLabel 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 ClassificationPhotographCollection AreaPhotographyRights
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grass (plant material)