The Passion of Collecting Academic Nudes

Join me as we explore my collection of Academic Nudes from the 18th, 19th, and Early 20th Centuries and serendipitous finds in the Museum, Art Auction, and Gallery world......examples from the Golden Age of the European Academie

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nude Sleeping Boy (Example of Foreshortening) Artist Unknown

I have tried to decipher that signature in the lower left hand corner of this drawing but for the life of me I can't read it so we will just wait until someone out there recognizes it I guess. I really love the square format or near square format of this drawing. Many of my own paintings are on square formats or similar proportions. There's just something about that format that captures my artist's-photographer's eye. I took photographs with a Hasselblad 2 1/4 by 21/4 format camera for many years and I guess my admiration of the format came from that photographic usage. Many of my fellow students in my painting class would always groan when I showed up with another square canvas for the assignment. They were addicted to the rectangle. Any student of drawing when asked what they find most difficult about the process of figure drawing will tell you that foreshortening poses the most difficulty in believable execution. Try it sometimes and you will quickly find out why its not easy. I think that the artist who created this nice drawing did an admirable job, especially when you consider how out of proportion a child's body is in comparison to his head. I honestly tried to identify the artist behind that signature and for some strange recollection this pose and the subject matter seems terribly familiar. After class I would hit the Fine Arts Library stacks and literally start at one end of a row and pull down all the books on that row and look at works of art. When I first saw this drawing I immediately thought of a preparatory drawing I had seen of a similar subject matter and pose by Pierre Cecile Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) for the Symbolist painting The Poor Fisherman (see illustration below). That child on the ground is what I am referring to. In the preparatory drawing by Puvis de Chavannes the child was not draped but nude and I'll swear was almost identical to this drawing. I will have to search through my extensive files and see if I saved a scan of that particular drawing, which brings us to another something in regards to this drawing and that pose. To my eye the symbolic use of a nude male child brings to my mind several concepts: innocence, vulnerability and more importantly, the viewer's gaze. Let's face it, if you enjoy figural works of the nude human body then by definition you are a voyeur. Three cheers for voyeurism! If you have a chance to review a copy of Germaine Greer's book: The Beautiful Boy, please do so. It is filled with so much information about the nature of male beauty and answers many of the nagging questions as to why you see so many nude boys floating around artistic works in art history. I remember the tempest in a teapot this book caused in the art world when it hit the shelves. One particularly incensed critic even called Greer a "pervert" for the exploration of her subject matter. I doubt that critic had even read the book as opposed to just oogling all those nude boys and male youths. I wish I had time to explore the subject in more detail now but we will have to wait until later.


Caption: Nude Sleeping Boy
Artist: Signature Unknown
Medium: Conte on paper
Dated: 1880 - 1900

The Poor Fisherman .... Pierre Cecile Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898)

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