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

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Florence Classical Arts Academy - Florence, Italy

I am always on the look out for Art Schools that teach Classical methods of training artists. I was browsing around the net when I came upon The Florence Classical Arts Academy in Italy. They offer a variety of classical training, summer courses, and I think even an online course. You can find them at . Dissatisfied with your current University training, then take a look at what they have to offer the aspiring artist! Here are a few screen caps of their website and a few examples of student works.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Book Review: “Naked - The Nude in America" by Bram Dijkstra -Rizzoli Press, New York (2010)

It’s been quite a while since I have done a book review so I thought I would do a review of one of my most recent acquisitions. Several months ago I bought a copy of the quintessential tome on the nude in art by Sir Kenneth Clark titled: “The Nude: A Study In The Ideal Form” for ten dollars on eBay. His series of lectures on the subject covered just about all the European sources of the nude in art but was somewhat short on the nude in art in North America. I began to wonder about what volumes are out there which cover the missing parts of Clark’s lectures on the nude in art. Now, in this age of internet accessibility of tons of information on line about art and artists, I began to think about what might be out there in print on the subject of my interest in the 19th century European and American Academy of Arts and the Academic nude. It appears that interest in the printed word in real, hold in you hands, love the feel in your hand of ten pounds of paper, books has been somewhat eclipsed by weightless images on a computer screen. You would be surprised by the number of out of print books on the subject of 19th century art listed on eBay these days which can be had for just a few bucks. In my search for reference materials I happened upon this volume for a measly thirty-eight dollars which sold at publication for seventy five dollars. When the book arrived I was in awe! As I thumbed through the 476 pages of color illustrations I was captivated by the detail of what America has contributed to the subject of the nude in art from the 18th century to the date of the publication of this volume. Here is a scan of the critique of the volume from the jacket cover:
The volume is lavishly illustrated with large color images and is well worth the paultry few dollars you have to pay for it on eBay. I highly recommend you add it to your library of art books. Here is a sampling of just a few of the illutrations: (Below) (1) Benjamin West - Male Nude Sitting on a Rock - Watercolor - 1783
(3). EDWARD VYSEKAL - NUDE 1930 - Watercolor (Below)
(5).ROBERT LEWIS REID - The Bathers 1894 (Below)
(8) WILLARD LEROY METCALF - THE BATHING POOL 1886 (Below - Partial scan)
Complete Image: (Below)

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

ACTAEON- Bronze Relief - Unknown German Artist -Circa 1900-1930

When I first spotted this beautiful bronze relief on eBay Germany my first reaction was: “OMG, that’s Actaeon!” The seller had eroniously listed the bronze as “Man chased by wolves and dogs on horseback” in German! I knew it was way more than that! My breath was taken away by the beauty of that work or art. I had to have it! The starting price was at a stupid low amount of a few Euros so I emailed the seller and told her what the subject matter was and made her what I thought was a fair offer of several hundred Euros, which was way more that the current bid! Fortunately she accepted my offer and that beautiful bronze relief is headed into my collection.
The story of Diana and Actaeon in Ovid’s Metamorphoses tells of a man who happened by chance upon a goddess bathing. The outraged goddess ensures that Actaeon can never tell what he has seen by changing him into a deer to be killed by his own hounds. Ovid explicitly compared the reasons for his own exile with the error that Actaeon unintentionally committed. Subsequently, many artists have used this story to comment on the censorship of a human being and to explore Ovid’s own thoughts on the subject. A 17th-century plaquette (Bowdoin College Art Museum), Titian’s Diana and Actaeon (National Gallery, London), and a tapestry depicting the same scene (Metropolitan Museum of Art), offer three different interpretations of Actaeon’s story. Each artwork (painting, tapestry, or plaquette) tells a unique story of Actaeon’s unfortunate fate and gives the viewer insight into the plight of the exiled author. Actaeon’s encounter with Diana shows the unfortunate fate of a young hunter who unknowingly happens upon a nude goddess. “But if you seek well, you will find the charge of chance, not a crime; for what crime did error have?”I Actaeon did not mean to offend the goddess and is genuinely surprised when his wanderings in the woods bring him to the pool where the naked goddess is bathing. “Thus the fates bring that man.” II Diana’s nymphs surround her and try to cover her but Diana splashes him with water, which transforms him into a stag before he even has time to realize what has happened. As Diana silences Actaeon forever, she sarcastically says to him, “Now you may tell that I have been seen by you, if you are able to tell, it is permitted.” III She taunts him knowing full well that he will never be able to tell anyone what has happened. He is doomed as a human stuck in an animal’s body for the rest of his short life. Not even twenty lines later the attack of his own hunting dogs starts, and he is torn to bits as his fellow hunters look on wishing Actaeon was there to see. Contemplating the events that had transpired Ovid discusses the justness of the punishment: “Public opinion varied: For some, the goddess seemed more violent than was just, others praise her and call her worthy of her austere virginity; and each side finds reasons for their point of view.” Diana’s violent response may seem more reasonable when viewed against the context of multiple tales in previous books that create certain expectations about how woodland encounters between a male and and a female will unfold. Heath’s article, “Diana’s Understanding of Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’”, emphasizes that the circumstances of Diana, rather than Actaeon, are unfortunate. Previous stories in the Metamorphoses that combine eroticism and hunting create an atmosphere of fear and a perception, “in which Diana, a careful and understandably suspicious audience of Ovid’s narrative world of hunt and rape, cannot help misinterpreting Actaeon’s actions.” V For example, in Metamorphoses 1, Apollo becomes infatuated with Daphne who must resist the imminent danger of (a possible) rape. She then begs her father to allow her to be left alone, like Diana, the virgin goddess. Daphne’s fate is less than desirable as she is turned into a tree in order to deny Apollo her body. Later on, Jupiter disguises himself as Diana in order to force himself upon Callisto. You can find more on Callisto here. Therefore, Diana knows that a man finding a naked woman in the forest is never a good thing, even if he is a mortal against a goddess. “The goddess reacts to the only paradigm she understands, that of the narrative pattern which makes her open to assault.”VI Diana has no other option but to react and therefore, her transformation of Actaeon can be seen as necessary defense rather than a cruel punishment. She believes she is standing her ground! …… In this 17th century tapestry, Actaeon is seen fleeing the scene  and again, the horns are already on his head implying his impending death in the jaws of his own hunting dogs. Actaeon is a doomed man who feels guilt and shame, or even fear, from happening on the naked goddess. Diana, on the other hand, seems much more regal and poised. She does not seem like she is acting out of fear, but rather out of a sense of divine dignity. This makes the punishment seem much more cruel and depicts Actaeon as a hapless victim much less responsible for his actions. Would Ovid identify more with the scene depicted in this artwork over the other two? The blame is placed entirely on the one who is silencing. Actaeon just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and is banished forever from human existence to be killed as a stag by his own beloved hunting dogs. Behind Actaeon’s transformation and doom, Ovid’s own exile from Rome by Augustus resonates. Throughout the story, Ovid reminds the reader that it was indeed fate that brought Actaeon to Diana and not his own wrongdoing. “Thus the fates bring that man.” IX Later artists make specific decisions that illuminate different thoughts on the guilt or innocence of both Actaeon and Diana. These decisions reflect on the unfortunate censorship of the Roman poet turned exile. Ovid comments on the fortune of Actaeon in Tristia: “Ignorant Actaeon saw Diana without clothes: nevertheless he fell as prey for his dogs. Even fate must be atoned for among the powers that be; chance carries no weight when a god has been hurt.”X Even if Actaeon was just unlucky, maybe the goddess acted in an understandable manner given the circumstances. Was Diana unjust in her punishment, or was she right to be defensive in the presence of a man given the many stories ending in rape after a hunt? A close analysis of Ovid’s text reveals that Actaeon was brought there by fate, but can we still call the reaction of the goddess unjust? The story of Diana and Actaeon may be up for debate but what this conversation yields is the opportunity to reflect on the exile of Ovid and the silencing of many others.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

GEORGE BELLOWS (1882 -1925) Lithograph: “Man on his back, Nude.” circa 1916 (Numbered 17 in an edition of 19 Prints in the Series - Signed by the Artist’s Daughter, Jean Bellows Booth (1915-2007).

“It seems to me that an artist must be a spectator of life; a reverential, enthusiastic, emotional spectator, and then the great dramas of human nature will surge through his mind.” (GEORGE BELLOWS, 1917) The Artist..(Below)
Man on his Back, Nude. Circa 1916
During my adventures into the online Auction World over the last few weeks, now that there seems to be a huge dry spell in the various European Auction sites, I noticed there was an auction of 19th and 20th Century prints at the Rachael Davis Fine Arts site. As I wondered through the pre-sale online gallery, I ran across a print by the famous American Artist GEORGE BELLOWS (1882-1925) titled: “Man on his back, Nude,” ca. 1916. I have always loved the American printmakers of the early 20th century since buying a print by Thomas Hart Benton that I found at an Antiques store in New York City in the late 1970’s shortly after Benton’s death. Anyone familiar with the works of George Bellows knows his prints and paintings are full of energy and movement. The auction estimate was in the range of affordable so I decided to sign up and take part in the Live Auction sale. In the mean time, unlike some of my past unsuccessful auction efforts, I decided to do some in-depth research on the print and found the Bellows Family Trust Site online which lists all of his prints available for purchase from the Family Trust found in his studio after his death. I found this particular print in their list of available prints for sale and just about swallowed my chewing gum when I saw the listed price (below). Original signed Bellows Prints can bring a very hefty asking price so I thought why not go for it. It is pulled from the original stone and is number 17 of a rare limited edition of 19 prints. I realize the main objective of selling these prints posthumously is mainly to keep the heirs in cash. Strangely enough the GEORGE BELLOWS Gallery emphatically says that all of GEORGE BELLOWS lithographs were pulled by him and some were left unsigned and later signed by his wife and after her death by his daughter. Here’s a quote from the website: “Thomas French Fine Art has represented the Bellows Family Trust since 2001. The Bellows Family Trust holds original lithographs and drawings created by George Wesley Bellows and left in the artist’s studio at the time of his unexpected early death. All of George Bellows’ original lithographs were printed by the artist or under his direct supervision. There are no posthumous impressions of any of George Bellows’ lithographs. George Bellows was introduced to fine art lithography by Albert Sterner in 1916. George Bellows was a quick study and soon became the leading printmaker of the Ashcan School. As he became more proficient in lithography, George Bellows employed the services of master lithographic printers, George C. Miller and later, Bolton Brown. George Bellows' daughter Jean recalls that Bellows would work until dawn with his printers to achieve the desired pictorial effects, often destroying lithographs that did not meet his exacting standards. Many drawings and lithographs were unsigned at the time of George Bellows death at age 43. At first the artist's widow, Emma S. Bellows, signed the remaining lifetime impressions of his works with the artist's name followed by her initials (ESB). After Emma Bellows' death, her daughter Jean Bellows Booth continued to sign these lifetime impressions of the original lithographs and drawings with the artist’s name followed by her initials (JBB)." Here’s the jaw dropping asking price from the site:
Further research indicated that Jean Bellows Booth died in 2007 so she won’t be signing anymore prints left over in the studio after her father’s untimely death. What the heck, the auction estimate was affordable so I decided to make a stab at owning the print and fortunately it is now part of my collection and it didn’t cost what the Family Trust Gallery was asking. Research materials record that 1916 was the year that GEORGE BELLOWS went from strictly painting and into the world of lithography. The first nudes he produced from life were examples of him exploring his new medium and perhaps technical exercises as he explored and learned the intricacies of the medium. As often in his lithographs he used the entire picture surface, filling the foreground and the background of the image with atmospheric texture. In his early nudes, Bellows explored the various possibilities of lithography using various drawing materials, “Male on His Back, Nude” being one of them. Do some deep digging and explore the beautiful graphic works of GEORGE BELLOWS!

Monday, February 13, 2023

Georg Jahn (1869 - 1940) Drypoint Print Titled: Fünf nackte Knaben beim Spiel am Strand (Five Nude Boys Playing on The Beach) Circa 1900

Fünf nackte Knaben beim Spiel am Strand... The Artist (Below)
The halls of the various European eBay Auction Sites have been like the Saraha desert lately in regards to affordable academic nudes, (Some examples are so rediculously over priced that I have watched them stew on eBay for months on end) so, as I am want to do in my old age, I decided to search for additional works by artists I already have in my collection, the most recent example being Georg Jahn (1869-1940). I went on an adventure in the online Auction and Art Gallery world and found there are few and far between examples of nudes by Georg Jahn which are affordable. So I kept digging and up popped the Georg Jahn print titled "Fünf nackte Knaben beim Spiel am Strand" from a gallery in Germany. I suddenly had a vague memory of a similar print being up for grabs on eBay Germany several years ago and that I had lost the bidding on that ocassion. Thanks to Biden's destruction of the US Dollar and the resultant addition of more Biden dollars into my monthly income I decided that this rare print was now affordable, so I bought it. To say Georg Jahn was a master printmaker would be a gross understatement. If you will do some basic research you will see that he produced some very fine portraits and landscapes. Another example of "What goes around eventually comes around?" I'll say it is! Here is some additional biography on Jahn from the Armstrong Fine Art site: "Georg JAHN As many artists in the 19th century, Georg Jahn (1869-1940) started his formal training as an artist with an apprenticeship. In his case this was as a porcelain painter at the royal porcelain factory in Meißen when he was just 14 years old and it lasted to 1888. Clearly showing promise, he was awarded a scholarship to the art academy in Dresden by the manufactory. Jahn studied at the art academy with Leon Pohle from 1888 to 1890. In 1890 he moved on to study at the Großherzoglichen Sächsischen Kunstschule in Weimar with Max Thedy. After completing his military service, he launched his independent career as an illustrator and portraitist in Berlin (1894-95), then in Leipzig and Munich (1895-96). By 1897 Georg Jahn had returned to Dresden for good. He joined a newly formed artists' association, the Verein Bildender Künstler Dresden (Secession). His close friend Max Pietschmann introduced him to etching around that time. The technique would soon become all-consuming to Jahn, who is today almost exclusively remembered for his etchings. He is thought to have left over 300 compositions, which are executed with great detail. His fine line renders modulations of light in grayscales few etchers of his time were ever able to attain. Portraits dominate his oeuvre, as do nudes, scenes of everyday life in small towns and along seashores". (Personal Note: Google has decided to improve the way blogs are composed and posted, which of course has screwed up what used to be a very easy process for seasoned citizens like me, now making it a pain in the rump, so forgive any spacing and allignments of paragraphs. Apparently Google has taken a page from Apple's engineering improvements to turn simple for ordinary peasants into happy fields of elysium for computer geeks and sycophants worshiping at Apple's multi-billion dollar phallus)(There I said it)

Friday, January 6, 2023

Georg Jahn (1869 - 1940) Intaglio Print Titled: "Junge Reiter am Wasser". 1909 (Later edition titled : Pferdeschwemme - 1921)

                          Georg Jahn (1869 - 1940) The Artist in his Studio


Over the holidays I was doing my usual rambling around the halls of eBay Deutschland when I happened upon an intaglio print by Georg Jahn (1869 - 1940) titled "Pferdeschwemme," signed and dated 1921. I had a flashback to the first time I viewed this print in a museum sometime during my 10 years in New York City many moons ago. It's the kind of artwork that makes a definite impression because of the skill of the master graphic artist who created it. The asking price somewhat stretched the budget but I made the decision to bring it into my collection, that's how much I admired the print. There are apparently two versions of this print created at two different times in the artist's work life. The first edition of the print is titled "Junge Reiter am Wasser" (Young Riders by the Lake) and was created in 1909 by Georg Jahn. The second edition (dated 1921) was titled "Pferdeschemme" and is the particular print now in my collection. Here are illustrations of the two editions that my research on past auction results could find:

The First Edition Titled "Junge Reiter am Wasser".... 1909

Second Edition titled: "Pferdeschemme," signed and dated 1921. 

The Print is quite large at 22 inches by 18 inches.


As you can see the artist has made changes in the background of the composition on the middle right hand side. 

Here is some biographic information on the artist:

German artist Georg Jahn was one of the greatest etchers to hail from the Dresden region. His works, produced during the early 20th century, are impeccable examples of the delicate and skilful art of etching, as well as being indicative of the tensions arising in German art during this time between the classical and the modern.

Jahn’s artistic career began with a job in the Meissen Porcelain Factory, painting with painstaking detail the minuscule decoration upon the ceramics. He surely showed incredible skill, for his works earnt him a scholarship to study at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. Jahn would begin his artistic education there, under renowned portrait painter Leon Pohle (1841-1908), before moving on to complete his studies at the Grand-Ducal Saxon Art School, under Max Thedy (1858-1924).
Perhaps both of these teachers bore an influence, for Jahn would christen his professional painting career with a tenure as a portrait painter himself, working in Berlin, Munich, and Leipzig. However, at this time he began to find an interest in etching and took lessons from his friend, Max Pietschmann. Soon enough, Jahn was fluent in all styles of etching. The seeds of artistic greatness had been sown, and from the soil began to bloom Jahn’s true artistic calling.

Etching has a strong connection with Germany. It was within the Germanic lands the medium first began to be developed. During Jahn’s time, it was becoming as much influenced by modern developments in art as any other medium. Indeed, Jahn became swept up in the tensions being wrought through the Dresden art scene between the traditional, classical school of art, and the modern, experimental avant-garde. Jahn himself settled more comfortably on the side of the modern pioneers, exhibiting numerous times with the Dresden Secession, an art group established in protest of the classical leanings of the art institutions. However, his art style found much more of a middle ground between both the classical and the modern.

Jahn paints with elegance and coherency of form much more aligned with the classical, traditional style. His nude women, who he so often depicted, are gloriously rendered. Their black and white presentation makes them appear as if marble statues, captured on paper. Yet he places them within freer, natural settings of lakes and rivers, beaches and bays. This was very much in tune with the ideology of Art Nouveau, which was interested in raw, expressive depictions of the natural world.
Jahn’s settings are so very often natural, and he utilises his accomplished skill to strike out across the page the many nooks and crannies of nature’s visage. Each tree branch ragged, each rockface cragged. Jahn was keen on depicting studies of everyday life, marrying nature’s beauty with his accomplished talent.

This carried forwards into his compositions. Jahn was uninterested in puzzling allegories which might keep the viewer guessing as to the meaning and message of his works. He offered up pieces with a clarity of form and communication.

Human subjects are set within their surroundings and connected in a harmony of composition which enables the viewer to read the scene clearly. Fishermen in the foreground lie along the same line of the canvas as the horizon of the sea to which they dedicate their days. A group of girls, knitting and nattering, are balanced neatly upon the paper with their hometown, both symbols of domestic, everyday life.

There is a simplicity to the storytelling in his works which does not squander their artistic value or sophistication. This composition joined with Jahn’s extremely evocative knack for depicting both human emotion and the flushes and rushes of nature, creates works both discerning and energised.
Jahn was much celebrated in his lifetime. His works were regularly exhibited within his homeland, and he won numerous awards, including a Saxon State Medal. He left approximately 300 works following his death in 1940. History has been a tough force against which Jahn’s memory has reckoned, however his work and his influence have been rediscovered and newly celebrated. Many today consider him one of the greatest German etchers of the 20th century.

And here are some additional illustrations of the print:



Here are examples of his other works: