Thursday, April 08, 2010

Manet's Olympia and X-men's Nyx

NYX: Wannabe (collects NYX #1-7)When I do read comic books these days, I try to go for more high minded stuff like Asterios Polyp that muses on Art and Love or Logicomix that muses on Math and the Human Condition. But every once in a while, I pick up a volume of X-men for old time's sake, which actually isn't nearly as Trashy as it used to be, mostly because as the average age of comic book readers aged, so did the comic books. But its still X-men.

However, a recent new X-men spinoff (Nyx) showed me something about a 19th century French Realist painting by Manet: his painting of Olympia, or similarly, his painting of Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (lunch on the grass). We learned in art history class that these paintings were shocking because though there have been paintings and sculptures of Nude women since the birth of Western art, Manet was the first to depict a Naked woman. As in a real person, instead of some idealized goddess. And it was disturbing. I think over a century of aging has made Manet's paintings lose its impact, to my modern eyes, it looked much like other stuffy old paintings, but revolutionary at the time.

I finally understood (really felt) the impact that painting must have had when reading Nyx. Nyx is the latest X-men spinoff about a new team of teenage mutant superheroes. The difference was the art. A hazy realist art, that aimed for realism, a cartoonish realism, but realism, unlike the cartoonish idealized images that is standard for superhero comic books. And that made the same images of scantily clad teenagers (which have been the staple of comic books for decades) more than a little disturbing.
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