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The scandalous painting that helped create modern art

Western art followed the same rules for centuries. Until “Olympia.”

In 1865, Edouard Manet’s painting “Olympia” debuted in the Paris Salon, changing the art world forever. Controlled by the French Academy of Fine Arts, the annual Salon was the most important art exhibit in the world. Getting into the Salon could make an artist’s career, paving the way to financial and critical success.

The Academy had a narrow idea of what great art should look like. Virtually all paintings they displayed followed a specific set of rules designed to imitate the work of Renaissance masters like Michelangelo and Titian. But “Olympia” broke these rules, shocking the salon-goers and infuriating art critics.

Viewers took issue with the subject Manet painted and the way he painted it, full of unnatural colors and rough brushstrokes.

Manet’s scandalous work opened the door to modernism, redefining “good art” forever, and inspiring many of the artists we see in museums today, like Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso.

Watch the video above to learn more about this game-changing painting. You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.

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