December 12, 2006

Victorian Art

I was looking for a biography of French painter Bouguereau and came across this "true confession" from art expert Edward Winkleman:
No one who loves Bouguereau, in my opinion, should apologize for it. Again, taste is subjective. I'd have one if it were available (of course I'd install it as part of some ironic juxtaposition just to maintain my street cred, but I'd admire it secretly when no one was looking...William-Adolphe Bouguereau could paint).

Victorians were said to be prudes and yet "Victorian nude" is hardly an oxymoron. Why the disconnect? According to this Forbes column, there was a lot of hypocrisy, of artists wanting to paint nudes and did so under the guise of high and noble purpose: "A statue of a naked woman with a shovel becomes a symbol of agriculture, a painting of a naked youths an illustration from classical mythology." Perhaps it was naivety, but I have tended to think of Bouguereau as a spiritual giant, thinking no one could lust while painting such innocence.

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