Tag Archives: Nude

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:

q2

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.

sarah-lucas-op-toilet--w500

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:

IMG_20160216_094529

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.

A_Gentelleschi_Susanna

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!

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.

rs1

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:

bum1

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.

08_09_2008_0798142001220859142_dominique_regnier

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?

08_09_2008_0622517001220859142_dominique_regnier

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.

IMG_0995 - копия (3)

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):

fragment1

  • 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:

IMG_0995 - копия (4)

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):

DSC_0274

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.

Miss Venus, tell me about your modelling career

She modelled for hundreds of artists. Her first-hand experience of art is invaluable. It took me some years to arrange an interview, given her extremely busy schedule, and the fact that her personal assistant behaves like a 9-year-old boy who just got a toy bow for his birthday.


I: Miss Venus, you’ve modelled for most of the greatest artists in these parts of the universe, and my readers would love to know what it was like. Who was your favourite artist?

Venus: Modelling for God was, perhaps, most rewarding and memorable.

I: You mean God that created the real you?

V: Oh, no. I was born out of sea-foam. It was rather an accident than a plan. Sitting for God was my first modelling job. I had a breakdown when I saw the result. He came up with a perfect sphere, and I thought God thought I was fat.

I: Is it a lost sculpture? I have not been aware of it until this very moment.

V: You have always been aware of it. It’s high up in the sky, the second planet from the sun. God has an extraordinary sense of humour, you know. And he’s a better artist than most of your greatest ones, except, perhaps, Matisse. God was the top minimalist before minimalism was invented! I remember Him telling me, “Sweetie, you’re so sexy I’m gonna make ya the hottest planet”. And he did, even though Mercury is closer to the sun than me! Mercury would bitch about this for ages. 

I: God a minimalist? Well, the scale of his work can hardly be classified as minimal. Miss Venus, before we get to Matisse, can we talk about his predecessors? Let’s begin with the Classic epoch. Venus de Milo and her Greek and Roman “sisters”.

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Venus de Milo, by Alexandros of Antioch, Between 130 and 100 BC

V: I loved modelling for the Greeks. It was fun to sit for someone who desired you, but was afraid you’d notice he did: the side effect of being a goddess. It helped to control the quality though: sculptors knew if I didn’t like their work, I could do something terrible to them. The problem with them, as I see it now, was they were too afraid to improvise. I guess the god for economy and finance is frustrated with the Greeks for the same reason nowadays.

I: I understand there was a gap in your modelling career for some twelve hundred years, until the Renaissance took hold of Italy. Old gods fell out of favour for quite some time. Was it a difficult time for you?

V: Believe me, old gods, and especially goddesses, can reach a very amicable understanding with any new ones. It was my own decision: I was tired of the Roman Classicism and wanted something new, someone new, unafraid of me as a goddess. I got Sandro at last. I remember Botticelli was very ambitious and stubborn. I kept telling him the shell was totally off, but he insisted a giant spiral one would look like a twisted vagina and “we want a more subtle metaphor here”.

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Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1484-1486

I: Did Botticelli have any doubts about showing nudity?

V: Never. He was so full of bullshit ideas about divine intellectual love, that he gave me the head of a different woman. Divine love… People with PhDs call it Neoplatonism, and uneducated masses get to know it as a striptease show.

Making me wear Simonetta’s face! I’d turn a Greek sculptor into stone for that, but I just couldn’t be angry with a blue-eyed man with golden locks. Besides, it was partially my fault. I let Cupid loose once, when I was sitting for Sandro, and he made Ms Vespucci femme fatale for all the men he could reach with his arrows.

I: So, were you dissatisfied with the painting?

V: No, I got full of ideas instead. I thought I’d love to see myself change the pose, for one thing. Sandro wanted me to stand in the same old classical way which I’d grown to hate already. I looked around and thought I could knock on Giorgione’s door. 

Giorgione, Sleeping_Venus, c.1510

Giorgione, Sleeping_Venus, c.1510

I: He put you to sleep, launching the reclining nude tradition that would dominate the male- controlled art world for centuries.

V: It was a very novel idea back then! A sleeping goddess is almost accessible, she can’t turn you into a frog for staring. But she is not sexually available. Very few men think of having sex with a sleeping woman: they want to wake her up first. But they won’t dare to wake up a goddess. It’s a bit circular: you can stare at me as much as you want, but you know you’d never have any physical contact with me. All of your glossy magazine culture is built around the concept. I didn’t even want to cover myself, but he said observers needed one more reminder of the “look but don’t touch” principle. 

I: So this is how you met Titian I guess: he worked on the landscape in Giorgione’s painting, and then, some thirty years later, he asked you to model for him. In his painting, he woke you up. Some people say you stopped being a goddess in  this painting, because you’d opened your eyes. Why did you agree to become an ordinary woman for Titian?

Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538

V: I guess we both felt platonic love had plateau’ed out. Protestants were marching across Europe making life a self-inflicted misery for most people along the way, and we thought we could take a stand for natural passion. Besides, Titian hated lies. No sane woman would agree to sleep naked in the woods. And if she’s really asleep, she won’t cover herself the way I did for Giorgione. Titian promised he’d take Giorgione’s Venus and make her alive. So he put me to bed, but painted me very much awake. 

I: In Titian’s painting, you are aware of the observer looking at you, and you look playful and welcoming. You are presented to the observer as a sex object, not  a goddess. Did that make you uneasy at the time?

V: Quite the opposite. I and Titian wanted to tell women that the best strategy for a mortal woman was to become a personal goddess to the man she fell in love with. I’ve always believed the death of a feminist is on the tip of a Cupid’s arrow, but instead of the end, it should be a new beginning, a transformation. I met a young artist in Venice some ten years after working for Titian, Paolo Veronese. He understood that concept.  

I: He mostly painted you in a conflict situation with a man, with you subtly having the upper hand in it. at least temporary.

V: Yes, Veronese made a point of living here and now. Titian painted me with Adonis at the moment when Adonis was leaving me to die on his stupid hunt. The lure of the worldly affairs turned out to be more powerful than love. I told Titian I won’t be modelling for the scene and he cut my neck in half. Just look at the painting! He was angry and jealous I was modelling for Paolo.

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Titian, Venus and Adonis, ca.1553

And Paolo painted me at the moment of happiness. If you can’t change a man, enjoy him unchanged while you can, I say.

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Paolo Veronese, Venus and Adonis, 1580

With all Paolo’s love for theatrical effects, I’d say he empowered women with his art, as much as was possible then.

I: Did you model for Cranach? He made quite a number of Venuses at the time.

Cranach

V: You could as well ask if I modelled for Balthus. Do I look like a teenage girl about to lose her virginity?

I: No, you certainly don’t. After Venice, what was your next modelling job?

V: It was Rubens, of course, but we didn’t quite manage to pull it off. He was at the other extremity to Cranach: I quit when I realised he was offering me unlimited cakes to make me closer to his ideals. It took me another thirty years to get back to form after sessions with him. 

Rubens_Venus_at_a_Mirror_c1615

Rubens, Venus at a Mirror, 1615

I: So, who was the next lucky artist after you’d dieted your way back to slenderness?

V: It was that moustached Spaniard, Velazquez, who mostly had to paint the Spanish Royal family. He had an idea that I thought quite revolutionary at the time. He didn’t want my face to be seen. So he painted me from the back, looking into the mirror, but the observer can’t really see my face clearly. 

RokebyVenus 1647-51_copy

Diego Velazquez, Venus, 1647-51

I: Was it because of poor quality mirrors?

V: You can’t be serious. It is because we wanted to enable the observer to imagine the face they believed to be ideally beautiful. 

I: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I personally put Velazquez’s version of you above Titian’s. I can also see you’ve changed your hair.

V: I hated being blond for Rubens. I pretty much hated everything about myself that was, you know, Rubens’ legacy. Besides, Diego thought dark hair, pale body, and dark sheets would make for a much better image of beauty than my sun-tanned body against the white Titian’s bed. One needs contrast to see beauty. Diego was convinced he needed red, for passion, and grey to make the body look alive against it. He was centuries ahead of his time in terms of using colours.

I: Yes, the French book on simultaneous colours that influenced Impressionists was almost two hundred years away.

So, Velazques was creating ideal beauty not on the canvas, but in the mind of the beholder. This sounds very much like the art of the 20th century. Did you meet any interesting artist between Diego and, if I understood you right, Matisse?

V: It is painful to admit, but for a time, I was infatuated with Cabanel. Until I realised it was going backwards, to Classical Greece, but with a rotten flavour of bourgeois debauchery. It was a dead-end. He turned me into a common whore and I thought to cut off his manhood. Instead, I cut inspiration off him for the rest of his life.

Alexandre Cabanel, The Birth of Venus, 1863

Alexandre Cabanel, The Birth of Venus, 1863

I: This is why he is now famous for not allowing Manet to exhibit at the official Salon more than for his art. But did you sit for Manet instead? I mean his Olympia?

V: As much as I loved Eduard, I only modelled for works with my name on it. No, it was that famous courtesan, Olympia, exactly as “it says on the tin”.

I: So, who was your next favourite? Picasso?

V: Picasso was a first-class fetishist when it came to a female body. I said I didn’t have enough anuses to model for him. He laughed. And then he used Cranach and Rubens as his inspiration. And that was totally wrong, you know now it was not me. 

Picasso

Dali tried to approach me, but I just couldn’t stand his wife, Gala. It was all about suppressed desires, Freud, and Gala’s ideas of group sex as if I were indeed the woman that Cabanel had painted. I mean I’d seen it all in the good old Greece and Rome. It was boring two millenia before their crazy family decided it was news. Dali was a vengeful man. I am sure you saw his photograph, the Dream of Venus?

Murray Korman with Salvador Dali, Dream of Venus, 1939

Murray Korman with Salvador Dali, Dream of Venus, 1939

I: And then came the turn of Matisse.

V: Matisse was my 20th-century genius. God sculpted me as a sphere, but that was so conceptual I am still not quite sure I get the idea. Matisse came very close to abstraction. He cut my head off, he cut my arms and legs off, but it is my essence that he showed. It is my 20th century concept.

Matisse, Venus, 1952

Matisse, Venus, 1952

I: I am sure many people would say it may remind the observer of a female body, but ideal beauty?

V: Then you’d have to explain why it is the ideal of beauty. I need to go and see a very promising artist now. 

I: Anyone I know?

V: No, but I hope not yet.

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.

PETA_body_paint_protest_in_Helsinki_cropped

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.

If a nude gets alive she becomes naked

A few days ago a woman walked up to the most famous vagina by Gustave Courbet shown at D’Orsay Museum in Paris, sat down on the floor, spread her legs and presented a live version of the painting to happy public and panicking gallery keepers.

This gesture was applauded by feminists who saw it as a clever statement against… No, I neither know nor want to find out. If all dumb attempts at getting noticed were branded “art”, we’d celebrate the Darwin list of stupid deaths instead of taking it for its nominal value of benchmarking absolute idiocy.

Given that there are many more statues and pics of men with their genitals exposed than female nudes, I expect a wave of male exhibitionism, with statements ranging from the rather academic, “on the transcendence of genital obsession clouding critical judgement” to a commonplace truth like “mine is bigger”.

I can come up with a dozen of very clever messages for anyone willing to get naked in front of an audience, but whichever message is taken by the exhibitor, the net effect is always the same: someone is getting naked in public, and the police is called to the scene.  Policemen wrap the naked performer in a blanket, and – having secured the offender safely in his/her cell, remind each other to wash their hands with the brand of soap that kills 99% of germs.

The lady in question was taken to the local police station, and, I guess, was released soon afterwards, because what can be worse for police morale than a raging feminist crowd outside the station chanting their demands to free one of their own?

This transformation of Rodin’s Thinker is a good illustration of the creative process behind the act:

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PS IMPORTANT: If your point of view is different from mine, I’d love to hear your arguments!

To sample this blog, click on About at the top. It has links to some of my best or typical posts. There’s an Art & Fun shelf if you feel like in need of a laugh.