Yesterday, John Keats’ poem Endymion came to mind yesterday as I concluded Alice Mansfield’s thoroughly absorbing Rust post on Courbet’s The Origins Of The World [10th July] and thereafter spent many hours contemplating the ideas and issues that it brought to focus.
One of the features of Alice’s piece was the fascinating historical context she gave her subject by detailing its provenance and influences – in the latter case, both those upon Courbet himself in producing it and those it subsequently exerted upon other artists, movements, the art establishment and indeed European popular culture at large.
These days, of course, it is somewhat fashionable to hold the view that the prevalence of depictions of the naked or (nude) female body in art history until the 21st Century was essentially sexist and down to the dominant role of men in human society and the willingness of male artists generally to pander to it.
I am not personally a subscriber to that line – I think it’s far more complicated than that.
Life drawing or painting has been a staple of art courses, both amateur and professional, for thousands of years and remains a vital aspect of art education and study in terms of artistic development and competence.
As it happens, last weekend I attended an irregular ladies’ social gathering at which a number of bottles of wine were shared and our wide-ranging conversation briefly touched upon this topic.
It came in a roundabout way after one married attendee graced us with further details upon an illicit affair she had embarked upon a few years back with a man a decade and a half her junior. (It may not surprise Rust readers that the revelations concerned were received by those at our table with a mixture of uniform prurient interest plus, in some cases, envy).
She went on to refer to a chat she had conducted much later with two of her adult daughters, after the relationship had ended. One of them told her that – if she was ever minded to stray again – she and her sister had discussed this and would suggest that she ought to try a same-sex version.
“How so?” our storyteller asked, a bit surprised.
“Well, Mum, you did once tell us that you thought women’s bodies were far more attractive then men’s …”
The lady then explained to us that, aesthetically, her view was indeed that the female body was intrinsically more attractive than that of the male.
If I recall them correctly, her exact words were: “Well, let’s face it, all those bits flapping about between the legs could scarcely be described as pleasing on the eye …”
I don’t know why, but I felt I should leave that thought with Rusters today as they address their ‘kippers & scrambled eggs’ breakfasts before opening their daily newspapers.