One of this week’s subjects was to compare and contrast Cézanne’s Bathers with Correggio’s Leda with the Swan.
It is remarkable how many excuses we have historically come up with to justify pictures of naked women – it’s almost sad to consider how art and photography books use the titillation of these to build their audience. I suppose it was forgiveable when the only thing on show was an ankle, but today everything is out there to see, or at least requiring a limited imagination.
This mention of the modern fashion to reveal all allows me to digress – a few years ago on a business trip to Dubai, a group of us visited two bars – one was the base for a lot of Russian hookers, the other for local ex-pat couples. I was struck by how the hookers dressed as you might perhaps expect your wife and significant-other to dress, in the ‘straight’ bar the wives and significant-others were dressed like hookers – go figure!
Back to the topic – Cézanne’s excuse for his nudes was the long-standing genre of nymphs, lesser deities, young women representing items from nature and lustful for young men – I guess this plugs directly into the whole living-in-hope delusion. Is this the attraction for fishing/angling – hoping that some day a nymph might show up?
Correggio’s excuse was that he was depicting a mythical scene – Zeus/Jupiter disguised as a swan to seduce the mortal Leda – clearly consensual but surely still zoophilia!
In Cézanne’s case he painted outdoors and didn’t paint from life models, so it wasn’t an excuse to get models naked in his studio or down by the riverside.
Surely that’s all they are – excuses to justify painting nude women?
But then I guess it all came down to a simple choice, do I paint religious themes, landscapes, still life, portraiture – or nude women? I guess I know which I would have picked!