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Description - Alias Olympia by Eunice Lipton

Eunice Lipton was a fledging art historian when she first became intrigued by Victorine Meurent, the nineteenth-century model who appeared in Edouard Manet's most famous paintings, only to vanish from history in a haze of degrading hearsay. But had this bold and spirited beauty really descended into prostitution, drunkenness, and early death-or did her life, hidden from history, take a different course altogether? Eunice Lipton's search for the answer combines the suspense of a detective story with the revelatory power of art, peeling off layers of lies to reveal startling truths about Victorine Meurent-and about Lipton herself.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780801486098
ISBN-10: 0801486092
Format: Paperback
(210mm x 140mm x 12mm)
Pages: 192
Imprint: Cornell University Press
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publish Date: 21-Jan-1999
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - Alias Olympia by Eunice Lipton

US Kirkus Review » 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. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Eunice Lipton

Eunice Lipton is the author of Looking into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life; French Seduction: An American's Encounter with France, Her Father and the Holocaust; and The Bad Brother. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, The Guardian, The Forward, Tikkun, The Women's Review of Books, and Art in America