Tag Archives: Eroticism

Nude or Naked? Art or Kitsch?

Pigeonholing female nude and naked in a practical way that may revitilise your next gallery visit. 

The debate about nude and naked has been raging on since Kenneth Clark said 60 years ago that “no nude, however abstract, should fail to arouse in the spectator some vestige of erotic feeling, even though it be only the faintest shadow—and if it does not do so it is bad art and false morals.”

Try to feed this line to a feminist today.

Fifteen years after Clark, John Berger summarised the distinction between nude and naked: being naked is just being yourself, but being nude in the artistic context is being without cloths for the purpose of being looked at.

John Berger believed that Western art had been predominantly about female [self] objectification, in the sense that while women had always been presented as goods for male consumption, they were taking an active part in this process themselves. It’s difficult to argue with this: popularity of Instagram selfies like the ones below is a living proof that not much has changed since the Ways of Seeing was first shown on BBC.

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It is perfectly ok. Girls are doing their best to look attractive to boys. Boys appreciate it by following their accounts, writing sleazy comments, and fantasizing in ways I don’t want to talk about. Instagram owners whistle all the way to the bank.

All I am saying is that consumer preferences still centre on the flirtingly erotic presentation of the female body, but a modern-day classic reclining nude painting would be deemed a horrible kitsch fit for the likes of Donald Trump or seedy strip clubs.

So, the question is: what kind of paintings of nude or naked bodies are not kitsch or a mindless repetitions of past masterpieces? Which of them have value?

As a collector and art history enthusiast, I needed a simple classification system for nude paintings that would show me their “ideological” value whenever I come across one. I say “ideological” because my decision to buy something is based first on whether a painting says something new about portraying a nude or naked body and then on whether it is, in my subjective view, a good painting in its own right, in terms of composition, colour, et cetera. If you read this blog, you know I often go so analytical about deconstructing paintings that it raises suspicions if I wanted to be a autopsist as a kid and my parents wouldn’t let me.

My system is simple. It is a matrix made by two questions:

  • Is the model aware of a male observer?
  • Does the model care about the male observer?

NOTE: ALL DIAGRAMS ARE CLICKABLE AND SOME NEED TO BE ENLARGED TO BE READ

Chart1

The definition of “nude” and “naked” becomes pretty much simple:

Chart2

And art history of the female nude can be briefly summarised:

Chart3

To give you a few examples (yes, now you have to click on it):

Chart5

You can see that some paintings like Picasso’s D’Avignon ladies or Rembrandt’s bathing nude can’t be easily pigeonholed to a single box, but represent a transition from one box to the next. These “transitional works”  represent valueable moments  when artists were searching for new ideas in portraying the unclothed human body.

Today, “progressive” thinkers view most of nude art of the past as chauvinistic garbage (with Renoir being one of the most hated artists). the art world gravitates towards the right side of my table. Indeed, the three “naked” boxes represent the contemporary territory.

What’s disturbing is that all the attempts to fill in these boxes with art have produced very few masterpieces, with loads of ideologically “right” but ugly artworks. Of course, when I say “ugly” I mean something disgusting for me personally. There are people who find Carroll Durham or Sara Lucas beautiful, but I find comfort in knowing many smart men and women who side up with me.

Sara Lucas, for instance, is mostly working in the “is aware – doesn’t care” box with her cigarette butts:

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Well, it is definitely more provocative than Matisse’s Dance, but is it more inspiring? Not for me, but the art world seems to have appreciated her effort.

She also tries to work in the bottom box (“model knows she’s not watched and doesn’t care”) by doing toilet selfies, but as her intention to appear uncaring reveals her pathetic desire to be seen and liked, I can’t say the attempt is a success.

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As an art history guy, I love the nude left side of my chart.

The top left box, the most “basic” one, is, in fact, a vast territory in its own right. There are segments of “authentic shyness”, “fake modesty”, “shameful resolve”, “indignant sale”, and a host of others.

Some of the segments are filled to the brim with art and some still stand pretty empty.

And the transitions between boxes remain almost unexplored.

Which is one of the reasons why I bought this nude last weekend:

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If – as I believe – she covers her face in shame, she falls in the traditional top right box with all the Titians, Manet, Ingres, and countless others.

But.

She refuses to collaborate with the artist to model fake modesty of a girl who pretends to be ashamed being caught naked. She is ashamed, but she’s not putting on a show of it. She also doesn’t want to watch back the male observer of the painting. She doesn’t want to meet his eyes, she doesn’t want to be the object of his desire. She surrenders her rather voluminous breasts (take them if you please) but not herself, as a person.

This, in my view, is a very interesting turn in the old debate about women taking an active part in their own objectification.

The Biblical story of Susanna and the Elders in art can be seen as a curious reference here.

Almost all artists would represent Susanna as shyly trying to cover her body while facing up to the two men:

susanna-and-the-elders-ottavio-mario-leoni

Susanne and the Elders by Ottavio Mario Leoni

In the vast majority of this type of paintings Susanna is presented in a seductive pose to make the male observer want her. Artists believed that an aroused observer would feel the same kind of feelings like the elders and, knowing the two ended up dead for their attempt to extort sexual consent from the woman, would learn a moral lesson. Maybe artists pretended to believe it, of course, as an excuse to paint a seductive nude woman (sex sells).

Artemisia Gentileschi was the only artist (perhaps because she was a woman, with a relevant personal background) who turned Susanna’s face away from the bastards with her body language signalling that she doesn’t want to listen to their sex extortion proposals, and she doesn’t want to see them, just like my face-covering girl.

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You see, a true depiction of shame is very unique in this genre.

Now, the painterly qualities of my nude.

Look at the shadows and tones, because the work is done with almost the same colour. She is lit, as if by a flash that went off above her. The hand movement is blurred as if she barely had time to raise her arm. The frontal flash of light stands very well as a symbol of the rush of attention of the male observer whose eyes take in the body as a whole, not seeing, skipping the details (like the bellybutton or nipples) at first.

Oh, the artist behind my nude is Victor Dynnikov. Click on his tag at the bottom if you want to see more of his work.

Print out my nude/naked table and take it with you next time you go to a gallery. It can be fun putting paintings into boxes. If you are a couple, talking about art may never be the same again!

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Ass to luv iz da baby

This is how a rapper would understand “astalavista baby”, I assume, and you’ll get my drift in a minute, for I have a bum-related art question for rappers. As I don’t know any personally, I hope you can propel it to someone who knows one, so that they could answer it.

Who the hell is buying the stuff?!

Under “stuff”, I don’t mean art or contemporary art, in general. Of course, you can hear this question when a Gainsborough admirer stumbles upon Turner Prize exhibits at Tate Britain in London; a lover of Raphael takes a wrong turn and ends up in Centre Pompidou instead of Louvre, or you yourself see a yellow Hummer H2 squeezing through a side street. In the latter case, we know the answer, of course: it must be a rap performer, a Top Gear show making fun of rap performers, or Arnie on a mission.

Yet, there’s one kind of art that makes me whisper this question. It is a realistically sculpted nude female body in an erotic posture. There are a few sculptors, quite successful commercially, who make this stuff.

Something tells me that the buyers come mainly from thriving mob and rapper communities. Unlike art historians who present their evidence and then shoot their arguments, these gangsta art-lovers shoot first and try to hide all the evidence later: that’s why I have to lower my voice asking this question in public.

There are sculptors who do it in wood, which makes me think of a moment when Mr Gepetto, Pinocchio father, was feeling especially lonely.

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This is work of Richard Senoner, who claims he is “converting expressiveness, aesthetics and harmony into sculpture”

Potential customers! Remember, this art is unsafe. The wood will crack in unpredictable places just about the time the running of your hand over it becomes an integral part of your daily routine. Instead of thrills, you may start getting daily splinters.

PS. If you don’t run your hand over it, what was the point of buying it in the first place?

There are artists who do it in bronze. Galleries in seaside French towns are filled to the roof with bronze seductresses sporting polished thighs and bums. It is as if Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Miro, Signac or Marquet have never existed, let alone lived in this part of the world. But I will rest the issue of why French Rivera visitors are prone to indulge in bronze figurines with fake-looking breasts. It is probably the sun. My question is not about this artless and anatomically bizarre bronze merde that costs marginally more than the metal that went into making it in a Chinese melting shop.

My question is about this:

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This is a French sculptor. Great carving. Unparalleled polishing. His stone bums sell for 5 to 7 thousand euros. To whom?! Who is stoned enough to buy himself a stone bum?

Wood is warm to the touch at least. But what do you do with stone?

This sculptor also does ice.

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Ice I can try to understand. Get yourself an ice bum, lick it to nothingness, die from pneumonia, don’t forget to croak you die as a performance artist before your last wheeze.

But, I am sorry to repeat myself, what do you with a stone bum?

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You can treat yourself to his website if you choose to. There are a few items there that could make this blog banned in some conservative countries. Remember, it can’t be unseen.

No rapper friends? Then give me your vote, please!

Vaccinate against fear of Picasso

We all know Picasso was a genius who was not just practicing, but creating “isms”; who was not teaching, but inspiring artists; and whose single painting could feed half the kids in Africa if US billionaires and Qatari sheikhs who buy and sell the stuff would give their Picasso money to charities.

Then we look at some of his paintings and feel we don’t want to be asking ourselves the basic question of why Picasso is great or inspiring. Because we don’t always know the answer, or suspect we may not like it once we get enlightened.

Shall we be afraid of Picasso’s bizarre works, like this one? Not any more, if you get vaccinated by a healthy dose of cynicism. Roll up your sleeve, you won’t feel the stab.

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It is, surely, a naked woman. An art historian would readily provide you with her name, her date of birth, and the year of her first intercourse with Picasso. Is it important? Only if you are contemplating a career in time-travel and mental help to sexually overheated geniuses.

Forget art history, trust your instincts.

What, if anything, is great about this painting?

If you take a girl, put her on a blue towel on a public beach in a pose like that, and have her photographed, you’d get banned from the beach, possibly arrested for indecent behaviour, and most likely sued by the girl after the paramedics help her untwine her limbs with massive injections of muscle relaxant.

But if you paint her surrealistically you become a prophet and a genius. Why?

For three main reasons.

1. She is one with the elements

  • Her towel is both a towel and the sea
  • The sky is also the sand and earth.
  • Her body is the green of life but also the colour that you get when mixing yellow and blue which stand for the different elements in this painting
  • The elements penetrate her and she penetrates the elements (just an example):

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  • Parts of her body resemble some of the major elements:

fragment2_1Why is it important that she’s one with the elements?

Do I really need to explain this? For the same reason Venus was born out of sea foam, and Eve was created from Adam’s rib. For the same reason men avoid meeting their girlfriend’s parents before they get steeped in marriage plans. Love and beauty must be god-given, just like the elements. It is very difficult to really fall in love with the product of someone else’s love-making. Meeting the mother-vagina and father-phallus prematurely is a death blow to a budding relationship.

There is another theory which states that a promiscuous man’s best defense is a claim that he is attracted to women at the primeval, elemental level, like a flower that is attracted to the sun or a fish that finds it difficult to stay away from water. The expected response from the addressee of this tirade is “Darling, you should see a therapist” instead of the more normal “get the f** out of my house, you creepy bastard!” What is really surprising is that it is known to work, if therapists are to be believed, of course.

Given that the words “muse”, “mistress”, and “model” had the same meaning in Picasso’s vocabulary, I’d say he was an adept of this doctrine.

2. She is built of phallic Lego blocks

Look, all the body parts are disconnected. And most of them represent phallic Lego blocks.

IMG_0995 - копия (2)If you don’t see it here, I can’t help you. If no one sees it here, except me, it’s me who can’t be helped. Yet, I am full of hope I am not alone.

If you have friends around you now, feel free to entertain them by the competitive counting of stylised phalluses in this painting. Don’t forget to tell me how many they find.

Why is this phallic symbolism important?

Simple.

Because now you can KEEP CALM AND BUILD YOUR OWN BABY.

Picasso doesn’t give you a porno image to fantasize about. He gives you inspiration to create something that would be your own sexual object, in your own wicked mind, made out of your own naughty fantasies.

3. Now, if you have a phallus, you can insert it anywhere.

It’s not enough to have a girl built. She has to be built in a way that she can be made love to in more ways than a seasoned Kamasutra practitioner can imagine.

Picasso was a first-class maniac, for the number of orifices, pathways, and spots which a phallus owner may explore here is beyond the wildest dreams of a porn-director.

Play your own game with it, but notice that even the towel’s folds are quite suggestive:

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To sum it up:

It is not a pornographic image to stimulate arousal. It is a DIY set to inspire you to create your own pornographic universe. If you have a working phallus, and are not a member of any religious order that prevents or limits its use, this Picasso is for you.

I am sorry if you are a Catholic priest. I should have posted a warning for you at the top, “This material is of no practical value to celibate readers. Proceed at your own risk”.

If you are a woman, it’s tricky. This Picasso is a lot like a blot drawing that shrinks love shoving in front of their patients. What you see there reflects who you are and whether you should be locked away or allowed to walk free until your next visit. It is a dangerous ground to explore. For instance, if you say you stand against female objectification, and this Picasso resonates with you at some level, it is a sign you are not against female objectification at least a couple of hours a day.

If you are Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, I’d love to know how you feel about this painting. You can probably experience it from two perspectives, so to say. It must be double fun.

SERIOUS UPDATE

Having received a few very valuable comments to this post, I feel the need to take the proverbial tongue out of my cheek and say that Picasso is not an “easy listening” kind of art. The problem with Picasso is that he is so often referred to as a “genius”, that we expect his art to be understood at once, be instantly gratifying, and immediately pleasing. It doesn’t work this way.

If I peel mockery off this post, this painting would emerge as a very strong statement. It addresses the sexual revolution or evolution of the 20th century in a way few artworks can hope to achieve. Think of the consumer attitude to the female body that permeats the society through pop culture and advertising, disguising itself in the false robes of romantic admiration. “You are like a star, like a breeze for my soul! — Now let’s shag, and be done with this romantic nonsense”. It is all in there, in this painting, explicit and concentrated. It is not a woman in the painting. It is the raw, hungry male consumer attitude to women. Do I need to have the same attitude to admire the painting? No. Can I admire the painting for its ability to express this attitude? Yes.

Dial up testosterone

Spatial visualization ability is one of the necessary (but not sufficient, in math terms) talent components. And one of the reasons men get to be creative (here, a careless writer might be tempted to add “more than women”, only to get ravaged by feminist critique) is their high testosterone level, that somehow links up to their increased spatial ability.

Even the most creative men may not be aware of this fact (proven by a test with testosterone injections into lab rats against a control sample of their castrated male comrades), but they have a gut feeling they need more of the hormone. That’s why male artists are so much into the whole muse thing. Guys, muses don’t provide divine inspiration: they raise very secular testosterone levels.

It’s not surprising then that many male artists have been notoriously famous for bedding and occasionally even marrying their models. Many of those artists would ultimately re-marry other models, but what would you expect from a male chauvinist bastard driven by his subconscious craving for more testosterone? Forgive him, for he was motivated by a noble purpose: the need to better rotate 3D objects in his mind, to make more of his great art.

Ms Venus, whom I recently interviewed in this blog, believes the nude genre has been largely defined and informed by hormones. But then, even though she is a goddess, she never said she was omnipresent and omnipotent, so her opinion is open to debate.

We didn’t cover German expressionism with her, for the very obvious reason: Ms Venus agrees to model for artists concerned with the ideal beauty concept but not the ones interested in creating stimuli for mental masturbation. She loves playing with scandal, but hates being a part of one.

And what a scandal it was! Imagine the beginning of the past century, when women couldn’t yet vote,  Picasso had just slapped the public cheek with his Avignon girls, and Harem Pants were testing the limits of societal decency:

harem

German artists were the Pussy Riots of the time with this:

There were four of them, initially, untrained university drop-outs with a mission to reinvent art by rejecting traditional values. And only two of them (Kirchner and Heckel) went revolutionary about the female body.

It was criminally radical. One of the group, Fritz Bleyl, designed a poster for the first group show that featured a very modest nude.

Bleyl-Poster

This excellent graphic work was still banned by the police.

Ironically, their “new values” would become traditional and then outdated in less than a decade. I wish there was a woman among them, though. If a painting similar to the ones above was made by a woman, she would be proclaimed the greatest and the bravest female artist. Alas, they were all men.

These four Germans started painting nudes with their legs spread wide open, and vaginas exposed in no uncertain terms (Egon Schiele would break the last taboos a few years later).

At their early, pre-war, years, they preferred blues, greens, oranges, and reds, and loved crowning their models with fashionable hats or bows.  For a time, their art wasn’t passionate and dark, it was…irreverent and cheerful.

While the innovative value of their art is as obvious as its scandalous character, the big question is, are these nudes any good outside of art history context?

Think about it. I’ll make a close-up on this lady over the weekend.

Erich Heckel, Egyptian girl, 1909

Erich Heckel, Egyptian girl, 1909

In the meantime, you can read what the curators have to say about it (not that it helps to understand anything):

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Oh, and one more thing: why would they leave the hat on?

PS I am sorry to have told you about the castrated male rats, but if you thought neuroscience is just about harmless brain scans, and IQ tests, you were very wrong.

Is Body Art Art?

Car shows, fashion events, and corporate dinners become so much more lively and spicier if the organisers pepper them with thematically illuminated naked girls.

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Note how a SINGLE body art model created jobs for TWO photographers.

Need to boost attendance? Bring out the nudes with T-shirts drawn over their tits, not put on their bodies!

Besides increased traffic, and cheer, the benefits of body art are many and varied.

Think of the workplace atmosphere, for instance.

Most corporate IT policies discourage googling “nude girls”, effectively depriving men of a third of their motivation (I am not aware of any company banning the search for power or money). It may not be OK to google nude girls, but “body art” is totally legit. It is art, it helps intellectual development, and promotes friendships by giving men something to share with their mates over coffee breaks.

Russian MPs during a Parliament session

Russian MPs during a Parliament session, it is not body art, but again, corporate slaves are not as immune as MPs, and body art is what can save their skins.

Body art can help a good cause, like anti-fur movement. It adds “cute” to “potty”, making the whole affair less embarrassing for the activists.

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Even hardcore feminists find it difficult to object to the objectification of body art models because, well, a woman can do anything she wants to her body, and no man shall advise her what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Not that men are going to start telling girls it’s not decent to bum around topless.

It is a win-win type of art, that motivated countless men to get divorced, buy a Ferrari and start a new life. It also inspired catpaining, the body art for cats, that I detest even slightly more than the traditional body art. Facebook wants more than just a cute or grumpy pussy now. It craves for some domestic violence to the domesticated.

One of the pics in the gallery earned $15K for the cat’s owner. Catpainting can be financially satisfying, not just the fun you get when the neighbour cat gets a heart attack as it ventures into your garden.

P.S. Before you decide to crush me with the argument that body art can be art if it is performed by Marina Abromivich, please note the joking character of this post, which is a teasing prequel to an essay on nudes in painting, and the role of Degas in turning the nude into the naked.

Does sex sell?

When it comes to the beauty of a female body, many painters say the key to success in winning the battle against photography is nakedness, eroticism, and sex seasoned with glamour. Art galleries are jam-packed with paintings and collages celebrating fast cars, full lips, cup D size breasts. This desperate idea (that pornography can beat photography) is substantiated by the claim that while a photographed nude can sell only if it was signed by Helmut Newton, a painted nude is Art regardless of who painted it, so it can be sold to anyone not allergic to paint chemicals.

I could agree with this opinion, with a one-word reservation. It is the key to success for bad artists.

A good artist does not have to paint a naked body to send his male audience into blissful contemplation culminating in cash transactions. On the contrary, men have been intimidated into believing their interest in nakedness is immoral, and even a greatly executed nude (unless it was signed by Lucien Freud) is likely to be collecting dust in the gallery’s storeroom.

I don’t blame feminism for this depreciation of the Reclining Nude (even when she’s not actually reclining). Art critics have done more harm to the genre than all the feminists combined.

John Berger, one of the most influential art critics and thinkers (most BBC presenters tend to become icons at some point) should be the prime suspect in the dock for discrediting the beauty of a naked woman. He never hesitated to cut and then interpret artworks to fit his marxist theories.

In his book Ways of Seeing, he used the head of Ingres’ La Grande Odalisque as a proof that the glamorous pin-up culture of the 1970s (very modern at the time) was keeping up with the quincentenary tradition of showcasing nudes for the carnal pleasures of male observers: he wrote that both pics were showing women posing “with calculated charm to the man whom she imagines looking at her—although she doesn’t know him”.

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Illustration from Ways of Seeing by John Berger

Poor Ingres must have turned in his grave the moment the book was published.

The Odalisque, in its full form, is detached from the viewer by smoking whatever substance she was enjoying before Louvre visitors started taking pics in front of her.

Source. I am happy for the girl in the photo, for if she likes this painting, she'd never become a hardline feminist.

I am happy for the beautiful girl in the photo, for if she likes this painting, she’d never become a hardline feminist who contemplates art history through the black lens of “unjust male dominance”.

Her half-turned head shows a moment’s distraction, not full attention. I mean the Odalisque’s head.

You, the observer, might have stirred her curiosity. Not because you’re a man she doesn’t know and wants to charm. There’s only one man who can take her, and it is her sultan. Are you the sultan? Are you a sultan? No? Well then you must be one of the eunuchs, because if you are not, you are very likely to become one sooner than you can prove yourself to be a true gentleman by saying, “Oh, excuse me, sir, I must have dropped my spectacles somewhere around here”.

A French mind of the 19th century saw an Odalisque as a beauty one can only enjoy at a distance, but can never enjoy physically. Of course artists were exploiting this theme to create titillating erotic images that would sell like fresh baguettes at the time, but Ingres was not one of them. He wouldn’t distort the woman’s body as much as he did (adding three vertebrae at the bottom), were he intent on creating cheap thrills for his viewers.

But even if we assume that she was painted as a courtesan in odalisque disguise, we can’t say she’s looking back with calculated charm. She is so damn used to men looking at her body that she doesn’t care about “looks” anymore. Show me the money first. We’d talk seductive looks later.

I can offer Mr Berger a much better head and body. The Russian Alternative, if you want, even though art historians may argue that Leon Bakst spent more of his “productive” time in France than in Russia and is, therefore, a French artist. The lady, to whom you are about to be introduced, is also a perfect example of the Dressed Nude: a sexually arousing image without a single naked body.

This is the head of the woman from Leon Bakst’s painting, “The Dinner” of 1902.

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Bakst’s lady, just like the girl in the photograph, challenges the viewer with direct and intense eye-to-eye contact.

Bakst’s lady has more clothes on. And yet, she’s much more seductive, especially if we look at the full picture. A good artist doesn’t just give you a sexy body to gawk at: he offers you the beginning of a story for which you can create your own climax.

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Some observers fail to immediately notice a vacant chair at the bottom; along with the fact that the table is set for one more person. The inattentive blame the busy top half of the painting. It is not so much busy as distracting. It is about blunt flirtation with the eyes and the smile, and undisguised seduction with a push-up bra, which makes her breasts rhyme with the voluminous oranges. Those oranges beg to be taken. The breast-orange pun is obviously intended: her outstretched arms become a visual aid for those, whose observation power is paralysed by the low neck of her dress.

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The folded fan in her hand is something that could make Freud’s bogey go boogie with excitement (it’s Zigmund this time).

I first wondered why Bakst chose oranges over apples that are instantly associated with sin, sexuality, and temptation.

No. That would be trite.

Comparison of apples to breasts was so common in art history, it became a bad-taste cliché when Cranach the Elder passed the torch to Cranach the Younger. Bakst must have opted for oranges, because he wanted to exclude the Adam-Eve associations (the flower of the lady’s innocence had been bruised long before she was seen dining, and the observer doesn’t look like an embarrassed Adam either), and because apples are consumed as is, while an orange has to be peeled first. I don’t have to add, “just like the lady in question”, but here you are, I said it.

And yet, were the idea here limited to a direct juxtaposition of oranges and breasts, the painting would slide down to a banal poem of two lines rhyming “bosom” and “awesome”.

Bakst’s Dinner (1908) goes beyond the trite two-liner, quadrupling it into a full-blown promise of sex.

Quadrants4Note how the lower parts of her figure are partially obstructed by layers of table cloth that is painted just like the skin of an orange. The artist indeed mixes orange with ochre to paint the stripe separating the vacant seat and the woman.

To cut the long story short:

Quadrants5

The famous marketing model (today seen as outdated) that describes the workings of advertising as AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action) was introduced by a US guy a few years before this painting was completed, and I seriously doubt the painter was aware of it. Yet, he came up with basically the same model.

This painting is a great example of creating an involving sex-story without showing any nudes. Bakst could go with a high-neck gown without rendering the picture less sensuous.

PS The small detail I also like about this painting is that the face is done in somewhat “mute” manner. It is not detailed, or specific, or exact and leaves space for imagination: the observer himself can “paint” the blueprint of the face the artist gives us in a variety of ways. 

PPS Having visited an amazing exhibition of Renoir in Martigni today, I feel it’s time to talk more about nude paintings, tracing the genre’s history from Giorgione to Ingres, Renoir, Degas and beyond. It is time to win back the Nude genre.

 

My perverted love of art critics

WIthout art critics we would be lost: we wouldn’t know what to think and feel. We would grossly misinterpret life, the universe, and everything. We would descend into a nightmare of conflict, debate, and beating each other on the heads with precious works of art.

If you’ve spent some time reading this blog, you might be under the impression that I don’t like the Modern Art Critic. No. I adore their word-juggling tribe, for how would I know the truth without them?

They make my life so much easier. I take their view, and then negate it to arrive to the truth. It is much like drawing through the use of negative space. In terms of showing whiteness, it is better to draw a grey background without the white cup (right side) than a realistic white cup (left side) that looks dull grey.

cupYadira

Look at this nude by Picasso. He is 87, his model, and wife is 42.

Nude Woman with Necklace 1968

Nude Woman with Necklace 1968 by Pablo Picasso

This is what a Tate art critic sees in this work:

“Picasso made this painting in a single day, just before his eighty-seventh birthday, when he was beating off old age with urgent, angry brushstrokes. The energy pours out of this massive female figure. She’s a living landscape, a life force, a human mountain range, with a river gushing from between her legs, a gust of wind erupting from her backside, and an explosion of white spray rising up behind her to join the clouds. Yet she’s many other things as well. She’s an ancient green goddess, whose mask face looks both at and beyond us; she’s an exotic bejewelled concubine, baring all and toying with her breast as she lounges flatulently on cushions of red and gold; and she’s also Picasso’s wife Jacqueline, whom he both worshipped and resented for her youth and beauty. I can never decide whether her expression is ferociously defiant or heart-wrenchingly vulnerable.”

And this is what really happened:

Pablo was furious that morning. Last night, he failed. He loved, he adored that woman. Her skin, her toes, her knees, her smell, her eyes, and yet he failed to satisfy her. He could read it in her eyes: a bit of contempt, a bit of pity.

In fact, she adored him, she used to say openly he was a God. There was no pity or contempt, just love and compassion, but Pablo couldn’t see it, for his mind was clouded by guilt that he transformed into rage.

So, he decided to rape her, screw her really hard, no-holes-barred, by painting her.

It had to be done in one day, for it was more an act of rape than a work of art.

“I can’t do you”, thought Pablo, “because you are ugly, not because you’re forbidding. I’ll expose your impregnability through comparing you to a spiky mountain ridge (Pablo compared the shapes of women to slowly rolling hills many times before), but I’ll open up all your caves and I’ll make you cum and fart, and all the more so against the soft red velvet”.

I wonder if Picasso would be climbing mountains were he not able to paint…

Picasso loved to create conflict through pairing red and blue when painting women. He assumed (rightly so) that it brings out the concept of passion in a rather obvious way, ever since the Renaissance days, when Mary was usually dressed in blue and red robes (even though those were not meant to communicate any sexual passion, of course).

He thought his wife’s body ugliness could justify his failure. He even cut down a few fingers and toes off her hands and feet (and normally he was very particular about toes).

“Do you like it now?” thought Pablo as he painted erect nipples. “Your face may be impassioned, but your vagina says it all! Stop pretending you don’t care or don’t like it! I can see it in the way your eye-lashes quiver (and he added the eye-lashes). I can see it in the sweat running down your cheek!”

Yet, Pablo’s love kicked in. His energetic brushstrokes with which he was painting the body transformed into tender pastel-like shades and lines as he was modelling the face. The lines with which the face is done are smooth, tender, and very differently to everything else.

The face was probably the last patch Picasso did. Most of his fury went up in the steam of painting the body.

He forgave himself when he painted the face: it is the face of a woman wronged, but loved. albeit cruelly.

It is not his wife’s real face: in a way, it is Picasso’s face as if reflected off his wife.

This is why its expression simply can’t be “ferociously defiant or heart-wrenchingly vulnerable”. The lines wouldn’t be so smooth.

P.S, My story is a bit of a far-sighted joke, but that doesn’t atone for the Tate critic’s shortsightedness.