ALIAS OLYMPIA by Eunice Lipton


A Woman's Search for Manet's Notorious Model and Her Own Desire
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 In this confusing and self-serving study, Lipton (formerly, Art History/SUNY-Binghamton; Looking into Degas, 1986--not reviewed) claims to find in Victorine Meurent (Manet's favorite model, known as ``Olympia''): herself; a mother-figure; and a surrogate victim of the patriarchal community of artists and art historians. Most of the narrative here is about Lipton and her rages- -against her mother for abandoning and then abusing her; against the faithless father whom Lipton thinks she has spent her life trying to please; against her arrogant first husband, the parents of her current husband/lover (the relationship is unclear), a friend who visited her in Paris (where most of the book takes place), a courteous librarian who was unable to find the manuscript Lipton wanted (``Idiot!''), and a male academic who served on her dissertation committee. Lipton admires sensuous female contemporaries; speculates on their sexuality; and offers, for no apparent reason, a detailed description of a meal she ate in Paris, of several tawdry sexual encounters, and of the position she most enjoys in bed with her husband, a locksmith who decided to become a professional painter. The real problem is fitting Olympia into all of this. Having depicted herself as a Jewish intellectual attending CUNY in the 50's, a misguided academic who later decided to give up her career to become a writer, and an overanalyzed and self-preoccupied feminist, Lipton resembles Woody Allen more than Olympia. As for Olympia--the author's ``alias''--Lipton concludes that she lived as a neglected painter and lesbian and died at an advanced age in a suburb of Paris. Unable to find any records of her, Lipton fears that Olympia ``had no life''--that ``she was a nothing.'' Olympia deserves better and, fortunately, she received it in Otto Friedrich's Olympia (p. 30), which captured her dignity and stature as an icon of her age.

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 1993
ISBN: 0-684-19417-1
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1992


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