By V. R. Main, The Guardian
Picture the predicament. She is 18, working-class, poor, with a secret ambition to become an artist. He is 30, rich, aristocratic, and a painter. The year is 1862; the setting, his studio in Paris. She is modeling for him, and, as they talk, their ideas merge. Two of the paintings he produces with her will become among the most famous in the world. But the majority of his biographers will ignore her influence. They will say that she was a prostitute and an alcoholic who died young. And, with that damning description, her contribution will be erased from art history.
It was more than a century after Edouard Manet's death that the art historian Eunice Lipton discovered that his model, Victorine Meurent, had actually lived to be 83. And it seems unlikely that she was his grisette—a young woman in a casual relationship with an artist—let alone a prostitute....
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