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HBO's ‘Our Boys’ Forces Israelis to Look in the Mirror

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“They are raining insults on me. Someone must be wrong,” the French artist Edouard Manet wrote to his friend, French poet Charles Pierre Baudelaire in 1863 about the reception of his painting “Olympia.” The work was vilified because it pictured a naked woman reclining on a sofa and being attended by a black servant. It quickly became clear that the “someone wrong” was the public, as the painting went on to become the landmark of the modern avant-garde and has since been hailed for its bold innovation.

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A naked woman reclining on a sofa should not have been earth-shattering to a public used to the image of naked Venus or Aphrodite at least since the Renaissance. But as scholars have argued, it was precisely the fact that Olympia’s nakedness was not that of a mythical being that shocked viewers. A naked goddess would have been perfectly acceptable, but Olympia, an ordinary prostitute, was not. It was thus not nakedness as such that was offensive, but rather nakedness without the wrapping of mythology, naked nakedness so to speak.

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Realism was an offensive artistic movement because it wanted to show reality as it was, without disguise. “Frankness,” “directness,” “flatness,” were the common insults hurled at a painting. People were furious not to be able to bask in the greatness and glory of the subject. Olympia was paradigmatic of a recurring feature of culture.........

© Haaretz