Warning Nude Art Below 2

Drawing of masked nude woman by Thomas Eakins

Continuing the post from yesterday, this woman isn’t really wearing a bag, but she is wearing a bag-like mask in this drawing by Thomas Eakins. During the 19th century it was considered a step above prostitution for a woman to be a figure model, so to protect their virtue they wore masks during the drawing session. I’m sure artists were grateful for the women who risked ridicule to sit for them.

Still today there are widely held misconceptions about what a figure model does. Some wrong ideas are that it is some sort of sexually charged lurid thing and that artists are looking for a thrill and the model is some sort of exhibitionist. The truth is quite a different matter.

During a drawing or painting session the artist is busy thinking of angles, light, color, value, composition, handling, proportion, and a million other things that go into an artwork. And the model is thinking about finding a creative pose, holding the pose and not moving, making sure they have the right expression on their face, and more.

A figure drawing or painting session is really a collaboration between the artist and the model to achieve the best artwork possible.

Unfortunately there have been cases in the past that stand out, probably for their rarity, such as the painting Chloe by Jules Joseph Lefebvre.

Chloe, a painting by John Joseph Lefebvre of a young french girl.

Marie, who posed for the painting, and her sister lived just outside Paris and were from a very poor family. They both moved to Paris in the waning decades of the 19th century and they became figure models. This painting was done when she was 19. She modeled for Lefebvre, who did have a reputation for getting too close to models, and she fell in love with him.

Unbeknown to Marie, Lefebvre was also carrying on with Marie’s sister, and roughly a year after Chloe was painted he suddenly dumped Marie to marry her. Marie didn’t want to ruin their happiness, so she kept a lid on her pain until two years later when she poisoned herself in the kitchen while a party she had been hosting carried on in the other room.

On a tour to Australia in the 1880’s the painting was auctioned off to a doctor who later sold her to Mr. Young. Chloe is now a national icon, and resides in the Young & Jackson Hotel in Melbourne.

It’s also one of my favorite paintings from the 19th century.

Charcoal drawing on red paper of a nude woman by Brady Allen

This last drawing is actually one of mine. It is black and white charcoal on Canson paper. This model has a very long and angular frame and is a challenge to get right since it’s easy to make her look out of proportion. I’ve had the opportunity to draw her three or four times and this is my favorite of the bunch.

I’m grateful to her, and all the other art models who’ve posed for me since there is no other way to learn drawing as quickly.

Warning Nude Art Below

Art models are awesome!

In a painting session today we had a new male figure model as the subject and he was seriously the iron man of modeling. At his own insistence to only take a break when he felt like he needed it he began a seated pose with arms twisted over to one side which couldn’t have been all that comfortable to hold for a long time. He sat that way for an hour and ten minutes without twitching a muscle, until the instructor made him take a break. He reluctantly agreed.

For some perspective, usually a model will hold a single non-strenuous pose (such as seated or reclining) for about 20 to 25 minutes before taking about a 10 minute break to stretch and do whatever. Sometimes there might be a slight drift in the pose, or an itch that makes them twitch which can change the pose enough to make it a challenge. If they do drift or change the pose, often someone in the class will ask the model to move the part that changed back to the original position.

So, the figure model’s statue like performance made me really think about art models and the great service they do for artists.

Art models go back at least as far as the 5th century BCE as told in the myth of the Greek painter Zuexis who was commissioned to paint a picture of the legendary Helen. Since Zuexis was unable to find a single woman in the city who matched his conception of beauty, he requested seven different women to pose for him so he could combine their features to make the painting. Unfortunately none of his paintings survive, but I’m sure they would be worse off for the lack of models had there been none.

The Ancient Greeks were all about making the ideal human figure in their art, especially in their sculpture. At first they were striving for a perfect rendition of the human body, but once they achieved this they strove for the ideal form, as seen in the Riace Bronzes below, but none of this could have been possible without close observation of the human form, which would require an art model of some kind.

Much later, during the Renaissance artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael used models to draw and learn from and put into their paintings or sculpture.

I this Michelangelo drawing you can see how studying the human model, along with anatomy (often from corpses) helped him to achieve such a great understanding of the human figure.

Since the post is getting long, I think I’m going to continue a little more on this tomorrow when we get into more modern centuries and ask ourselves why a woman has a bag on her head.