Art I Don’t Understand

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Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824 – 1904)
“The end of the pose” (1886)

Once we figure this out, feel free to suggest your on That is Priceless-style caption.

Gérôme is the same guy, by the way, who puzzled me a while back with his Illusions of Reality:

illusions of reality

25 thoughts on “Art I Don’t Understand

  1. Well, it seems to be the same model.

    In today’s picture, the model is helping the artist clean up and end the day. The sculpture is being wrapped in wet cloth to keep it from drying out before next session.

    Meanwhile, now that she is not posing, she is no longer “nude” and a subject for visual study, but has become “naked” and a subject for lusty interest. From the guy who has been studying every centimeter of her curves for hours, just now sneaking a look at them.

    AND the scene is being painted by probably the selfsame artist, in a gesture not exactly of self criticism but some sort of observational irony about human proclivities.

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  2. Thank you, Mitch4. I didn’t know about wrapping a statue in progress. It’s good to learn something. As for the meaning, I think you’ve got that just right. It’s all about context, isn’t it? A 40-year-old man with a naked five-year-old girl can be a pervert or a father giving his daughter a bath. The artist is saying context matters and intent matters. Not just for the creator but for the viewer. Just as the gaze of the artist in the painting is prurient, our gaze as the viewer can be prurient or proper.

    “That? Oh, that’s nothi–No! Don’t unwrap it!”

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  3. Having drawn nude models, I can testify that there is a huge difference between a nude model that you’re drawing, when you’re very focused on figuring out drawing issues (and are just as likely to be focused on their knees or fingers as their more private parts), and the same nude person just walking around.

    Every place I’ve been, the model goes into a separate room to change, comes out in a bathrobe, only takes the bathrobe off right before modeling, and puts it back on as soon as they’re done. It might seem silly at first glance, given that they’re spending several hours without clothes, but it feels perfectly sensible in context.

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  4. Also I think it is playing with the idea of hiding the model’s face (and thus identity) from us — the live model is turned away, and the wrapping of the sculpture has started with the face.

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  5. It’s a narrative. The first image shows the woman being kidnapped. Her parents have demanded Proof of Life before they will release the ransom money. The statue is being wrapped for shipping.

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  6. I would never have understood the situation without Mitch4’s explanation, because I thought that she was UNwrapping the statue, and had just made a “surprising” discovery.

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  7. I was a manual therapist for decades. It’s all right to have hands on body parts, but it’s not all right to have them disrobe with you in the room. Protocols help everyone.

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  8. Kilby, me too! I thought it was unwrapping. So I assumed it was like the common but embarrassing moment when the lady you like finally comes over to your place for the first time and things are going great but she finds the copy of Playboy under your pillow where you cut out a picture of her head and glued it on the centerfold. We’ve all been there, amirite?

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  9. SB: No.
    The artist might very well be checking out how accurately he carved (?) her backside and whether he may need to make some changes.

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  10. Not sure why one needs to “understand” art.

    Anyway we don’t need the irony of nude becoming naked (It’s not that obvious he *is* sneaking a peak) but I guess we sort of need to understand the wrapping of a clay statue at the end of the day. His rinsing does indicate wet clay and I never thought of it but wrapping to keep it from drying out would be part of the process.

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  11. ‘Not sure why one needs to “understand” art.’

    If you don’t, you’re missing nuance that you might otherwise enjoy. For instance, read that part of Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land where Jubal explains what’s not obvious about some of Rodin’s sculptures.

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  12. It might also be a pun/double entendre – the “end” of the poser, as well as the pose.

    The other picture makes me think of the quote about Truth living in a well…and googling that quote, I get this picture. That’s what it’s supposed to be – Truth climbing out of the well, with a whip for chastising mankind, is the translation of the original title.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_Coming_Out_of_Her_Well

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  13. Following on from Winter Wallaby, I think the procedure – model arrives at studio in normal clothes, changes in a separate space into a bathrobe, goes in front of the artist/s, disrobes – oddly preserves privacy (or the illusion of it) for the model through the act of becoming a mere object. Just coming into the studio in your own clothes and taking them all off – bra, undercrackers – in front of all the artist/s would be a gross invasion of privacy. Changing into a bathrobe in a separate room transforms you from a private individual into an artistic subject/object and allows you to keep your own private self hidden while your body is nude. Then you re-robe, go into the separate space to change back into street clothes and reclaim your self.

    In the world of the painting, I think it likely the model would actually have put on her own robe first before covering up the statue.

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  14. “In the world of the painting, I think it likely the model would actually have put on her own robe first before covering up the statue.”

    And that’s what makes it so prurient, IMO.

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  15. @Singapore Bill: “the common but embarrassing moment when the lady you like finally comes over to your place for the first time and things are going great but she finds the copy of Playboy under your pillow where you cut out a picture of her head and glued it on the centerfold. We’ve all been there, amirite?”

    Well, not quite; in my case it as a LITTLE LULU comic book. (Which was bad enough, but I pasted her face on to Tubby’s body.)

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  16. I think Winter Wallaby nailed it. Bill Mauldin in his memoir “The Brass Ring” tells a similar story about a life drawing class: the gear shift from professionalism to voyeurism after the modelling stopped.

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  17. narmitaj: “In the world of the painting, I think it likely the model would actually have put on her own robe first before covering up the statue.”

    I thought that as well, although when I noticed the painting was from 1886, I wasn’t so sure.

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  18. “Not sure why one needs to “understand” art.”

    I’m not sure why one needs to know how to read. I’m not sure why one needs to know math. I’m not sure why one needs to speak French. And so on.

    Art is a form of communication, not simply decoration. The more “languages” one can understand, the richer one’s world, the broader the sea of ideas one can navigate.

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  19. SingaporeBill: “Art is a form of communication, not simply decoration. The more “languages” one can understand, the richer one’s world, the broader the sea of ideas one can navigate.”

    Very well said! I’m gonna write that one in my book of quotes.

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  20. “The more “languages” one can understand, the richer one’s world, the broader the sea of ideas one can navigate.”

    Or as my wife likes to put it, “The more you know, the more jokes you get.”

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