Posts Tagged ‘Frédéric Bazille


Exhibition: ‘Monet’ at the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland

Exhibition dates: 22nd January – 28th May 2017


Underlying these “impressions” of light, shadow and reflection is structure. Perceiving the spaces in between things as things… means that you need to define the original things as a first point of call. Order/chaos, pattern/randomness, harmony/discord. One does not exist without the other.

Grounding all of Monet’s work is an intrinsic understanding of the structure of the world.


Many thankx to the Fondation Beyeler for allowing me to publish the images in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version of the art.



“The world’s appearance would be shaken if we succeeded in perceiving the spaces in between things as things.”

Maurice Merleau-Ponty



Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'The Customhouse' 1882


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
The Customhouse
Oil on canvas
61 x 75 cm
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Annie Swan Coburn, 1934
Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'View of Bordighera' 1884


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
View of Bordighera
Oil on canvas
66 x 81.8 cm
The Armand Hammer Collection, Schenkung der Armand Hammer Foundation, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Vagues a la Manneporte' c. 1885


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Vagues a la Manneporte (Waves at Manneporte)
c. 1885
Oil on canvas


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Rocks at Belle-Île, Port-Domois' 1886


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Rocks at Belle-Île, Port-Domois
Oil on canvas
81.3 x 64.8 cm
Cincinnati Art Museum, Fanny Bryce Lehmer Endowment and The Edwin and Virginia Irwin Memorial, 1985
Photo: Bridgeman Images



In the year of its 20th birthday, the Fondation Beyeler is devoting an exhibition to Claude Monet, one of the most important artists in its collection. Selected aspects of Monet’s oeuvre will be presented in a distilled overview. By concentrating on his work between 1880 and the beginning of the 20th century, with a forward gaze to his late paintings, the show will reveal a fresh and sometimes unexpected facet of the pictorial magician, who still influences our visual experiencing of nature and landscape today. The leitmotif of the “Monet” exhibition will be light, shadow, and reflection as well as the constantly evolving way in which Monet treated them. It will be a celebration of light and colours. Monet’s famed pictorial worlds – his Mediterranean landscapes, wild Atlantic coastal scenes, various locations places along the course of the River Seine, his flower meadows, haystacks, cathedrals and fog-shrouded bridges – are the exhibition’s focal points.

In his paintings, Monet experimented with the changing play of light and colours in the course of the day and the seasons. He conjured up magical moods through reflections and shade. Claude Monet was a great pioneer, who found the key to the secret garden of modern painting, and opened everyone’s eyes to a new way of seeing the world. The exhibition will show 62 paintings from leading museums in Europe, the USA and Japan, including the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Art, Boston and the Tate, London. 15 paintings from various private collections that are seen extremely rarely and that have not been shown in the context of a Monet exhibition for many years will be special highlights of the show.


Light, shadow, and reflection

Following the death of his wife in 1879, Monet embarked on a phase of reorientation. His time as a pioneer of Impressionism was over; while by no means generally acknowledged as an artist, he was beginning to become more independent financially thanks to the help of his dealer, as is documented by his frequent journeys. Through them, he was, for example, first able to concern himself with Mediterranean light, which provided new impulses for his paintings. His art became more personal, moving away from a strictly Impressionist style.

Above all, however, Monet seems to have increasingly turned painting itself into the theme of his paintings. His comment, as passed down by his stepson Jean Hoschedé, that, for him, the motif was of secondary importance to what happened between him and the motif, should be seen in this light. Monet’s reflections on paintings should be interpreted in two ways. The repetition of his motifs through reflections, which reach their zenith and conclusion in his paintings of the reflections in his water-lily ponds, can also be seen as a continuous reflecting on the potential of painting, which is conveyed through the representation and repetition of a motif on a canvas.

Monet’s representations of shade are another way in which he represented the potential of painting. They are both the imitation and the reverse side of the motif, and their abstract form gives the painting a structure that seems to question the mere copying of the motif. This led to the situation in which Wassily Kandinsky, on the occasion of his famous encounter with Monet’s painting of a haystack seen against the light (Kunsthaus Zurich and in the exhibition), did not recognize the subject for what it was: the painting itself had taken on far greater meaning that the representation of a traditional motif.


Monet’s Pictorial Worlds

The exhibition is a journey through Monet’s pictorial worlds. It is arranged according to different themes. The large first room in the exhibition is devoted to Monet’s numerous and diverse representations of the River Seine. One of the most notable exhibits is his rarely shown portrait of his partner and subsequent wife Alice Hoschedé, sitting in the garden in Vetheuil directly on the Seine.

The next room celebrates Monet’s representation of trees: a subtle tribute to Ernst Beyeler, who devoted an entire exhibition to the theme of trees in 1998. Inspired by coloured Japanese woodcuts, Monet repeatedly returned to the motif of trees in different lights, their form, and the shade they cast. Trees often give his paintings a geometric structure, as is particularly obvious in his series.

The luminous colours of the Mediterranean are conveyed by a group of canvases Monet painted in the 1880s. In a letter written at that time, he spoke of the “fairytale light” he had discovered in the South.

In 1886 Monet wrote to Alice Hoschedé that he was “crazy about the sea”. A large section of the exhibition is devoted to the coasts of Normandy and the island Belle-Île as well as to the ever-changing light by the sea. It includes a fascinating sequence of different views of a customs official’s cottage on a cliff that lies in brilliant sunlight at times and in the shade at others. On closer examination, the shade seems to have been created out of myriad colours.

Monet’s paintings of early-morning views of the Seine radiate contemplative peace: the painted motif is repeated as a painted reflection in such a way that the distinction between painted reality and its painted reflection seems to disappear in the rising mist. The entire motif is repeated as a reflection. There is no longer any clear-cut differentiation between the top and bottom parts of the painting, which could equally well be hung upside down. In other words, the convention about how paintings ought to be viewed is abandoned and viewers are left to make their own decision. It is as if Monet sought to convey the constant flux (panta rhei) that is such a fundamental characteristic of nature, capturing not only the way light changes from night to day but also the constant merging of two water courses.

Monet loved London. He sought refuge in the city during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. As a successful and already well known painter, he went back there at the turn of the century, painting famous views of Waterloo and Charing Cross Bridge as well as of the Houses of Parliament in different lights, particularly in the fog, which turns all forms into mysterious silhouettes. A tribute not only Monet’s famous hero/forerunner William Turner, but also to the world power of Great Britain with its Parliament and the bridges it built through trade.

Monet’s late work consists almost exclusively of paintings of his garden and the reflections in his waterlily ponds, of which the Beyeler Collection owns some outstanding examples. The exhibition’s last room contains a selection of paintings of Monet’s garden in Giverny.

Press release from the Fondation Beyeler


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'The Terrace at Vétheuil' 1881


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
The Terrace at Vétheuil
Oil on canvas
81 x 65 cm
Private Collection
Photo: Robert Bayer


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'In the "Norvégienne"' 1887


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
In the “Norvégienne”
Oil on canvas
97.5 x 130.5 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, legacy of Princesse Edmond de Polignac, 1947
Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Jean-Pierre Hoschedé and Michel Monet on the Banks of the Epte' c. 1887-90


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Jean-Pierre Hoschedé and Michel Monet on the Banks of the Epte
c. 1887-90
Oil on canvas
76 x 96.5 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Gift of the Saidye Bronfman Foundation, 1995
Photo: © National Gallery of Canada


Theodore Robinson. 'Portrait of Monet' c. 1888-90


Theodore Robinson
Portrait of Monet
c. 1888-90
24 x 16.8 cm
Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, gift of Mr. Ira Spanierman, 1985
Photo: © Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago / Art Ressource, NY



Theodore Robinson (1852-1896) was an American painter best known for his Impressionist landscapes. He was one of the first american artists to take up impressionism in the late 1880s, visiting Giverny and developing a close friendship with Claude Monet. Several of his works are considered masterpieces of American Impressionism.

An early exponent of American Impressionism, Theodore Robinson made a number of visits to France, between the years 1876 and 1892, and became a close friend of Claude Monet, whom he visited at Giverny. Paradoxically, despite his willingness to explore a new type of modern art, his particular style of Impressionism was relatively conservative. Even so, several of his paintings are considered to be masterpieces of American art in the Impressionist style. Best known for his landscape painting, he was also noted for his genre painting of village and farm life, as well as his Connecticut boat scenes. His famous works include: By the River (1887, Private Collection), La Vachere (1888, Smithsonian American Art Museum), La Debacle (1892, Scripps College, Claremont) and Union Square (1895, New Britain Museum of American Art, Conn). Shortly before his premature death from an acute asthma attack, he wrote in-depth articles on the Barbizon painter Camille Corot (1796-1875) and his friend Claude Monet (1840-1926).


Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of Theodore Robinson' Nd


Unknown photographer
Portrait of Theodore Robinson


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Poplars on the Banks of the Epte' 1891


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Poplars on the Banks of the Epte
Oil on canvas
92,4 x 73.7 cm
Tate, Presented by the Art Fund 1926
Photo: © Tate, London 2016



The Travels of Monsieur Monet: A Geographical Survey

Hannah Rocchi


Le Havre

Oscar-Claude Monet was born in Paris on November 14, 1840, the son of Claude-Alphonse, a commercial officer, and Louise-Justine Aubrée. From 1845 on he grew up in the port city of Le Havre in Normandy, his father having found employment in the trading house of his brother-in-law, Jacques Lecadre. The Lecadres owned a house three kilometres away in the little fishing village of Sainte-Adresse, which as a burgeoning bathing resort was much loved by the Monets. Claude attended the local high school beginning in 1851 and there received his first drawing lessons. His earliest surviving sketches dating from 1856 show caricatures of his teachers and the landscapes of Le Havre. When Monet’s mother died, in 1857, Claude and his elder brother, Léon, moved in with their aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre, who would become very important to him and support him in his pursuit of an artistic career. As an amateur painter with a studio of her own, she had connections to local artists and made sure that her nephew could continue his drawing lessons in Le Havre. Monet’s caricatures soon attracted notice and were exhibited at the local stationer’s, Gravier, who also sold paints and frames. This brought his work to the attention of Eugène Boudin, a former partner in the business, who became Monet’s new teacher.

Boudin invited the young Monet to join him on plein air painting expeditions around Le Havre, an experience that made a lasting impression on his pupil. Monet twice applied for a municipal scholarship, but was turned down both times. Despite moving to Paris to take painting lessons there in 1859, Monet repeatedly returned to Le Havre, including in 1862, when after a year of military service in Algeria he had to return to France on grounds of poor health. Later that year he was discharged from military service thanks to the replacement fee paid by his aunt. It was in the summer of that year that he met the Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind and claimed to have found in him his “true teacher.” He also spent the months May to November 1864 painting landscapes in and around Le Havre. His lover and future wife, Camille Doncieux, gave birth to their first child, Jean-Armand- Claude Monet, in Paris in 1867; yet, urged by his father, who was against the relationship, to leave Paris, the painter spent the summer without them, painting seascapes, gardens, figural compositions, and regattas in Sainte-Adresse. A year later he won a silver medal at the Le Havre art show. After the death of his aunt, in 1870, followed by that of his father just a year later, his visits to Le Havre became less frequent. At the same time, he was drawn more to the towns further up the Normandy coast, to Étretat, Fécamp, and Pourville, where he found even more impressive subjects for paintings.



Monet, who was born in Paris, returned to the capital in the spring of 1859 to visit the Salon and take painting lessons. During his stays in “chaotic Paris” he incurred numerous expenses, which he was able to defray thanks only to the support of his father and his aunt. Instead of enrolling at the atelier of the painter Thomas Couture for the preparatory course for admission to the École des Beaux-Arts, he chose the academy of Charles Suisse, where he probably met Camille Pissarro. After his discharge from the army in 1862, Monet returned to Paris and there joined the studio of the Swiss history painter Charles Gleyre, where he made the acquaintance of Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Two years later, when Gleyre ran into financial difficulties and had to close his studio, Monet’s father provided him with the funds he needed to rent a studio together with Bazille on the rue de Furstenberg. Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, and even Paul Cézanne were all regular visitors there. Monet was experimenting with figural paintings at the time, including his large Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1865-66). When their money troubles came to a head in January 1866, Monet and Bazille had no choice but to relinquish their shared space. Monet then rented a small studio of his own on the place Pigalle, and it was there that he engaged Camille Doncieux, the woman he would marry in 1870, to sit for him. His painting of the nineteen-year-old Camille (Camille, or La Femme à la robe verte, 1866), was accepted for the Salon and not only won fulsome praise from the critic Émile Zola, but also aroused the interest of Édouard Manet.

Together with other Impressionists, Monet founded the Société anonyme coopérative des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc., whose first group show was held in the studio of the photographer Nadar on the boulevard des Capucines in Paris in 1874. Among the works exhibited was Monet’s work Impression, soleil levant, painted in Le Havre in 1872. The show was savaged by the critics, who in a play on the title of Monet’s painting derided it as an “exhibition of impressionists.” Monet tended to find his subjects in the suburbs of Paris rather than in the capital itself, one exception being Saint-Lazare railway station, which he captured on several canvases in 1877. When Monet moved to Vétheuil, in 1878, he held onto a small studio in Paris, even if he used it mainly as a showroom for art dealers and potential collectors. When Monet’s patron Ernest Hoschedé declared bankruptcy, in 1877, he had no choice but to sell his large collection of works by the Impressionists a year later. It was through the sale of Hoschedé’s paintings that Monet met the collector and gallerist Georges Petit, who in the world of Impressionism would soon come to rival the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. In 1882 Durand-Ruel himself commissioned Monet with several still lifes for his home on the rue de Rome. In 1914, in Giverny, Monet began work on his last major project, the famous Grandes Décorations, and after his death, in 1927, twenty-two of these large-format paintings of water lilies were installed in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.


The Normandy coast

Although his career necessitated ever more frequent trips to Paris, in 1868 Monet wanted to make a home for himself, his partner Camille Doncieux, and their son, Jean, in Normandy. He wrote to Bazille that he could not imagine spending longer than a month at a time in Paris and that whatever he might paint on the coast of Normandy would be very different from anything produced in the French capital. The cliffs near Fécamp that he painted in early 1881 show how his style of painting was already beginning to change, how his once idyllic landscapes were becoming wilder. Monet spent a few months in Poissy near Paris beginning in December of that year, but found the village uninspiring and returned to the coast, this time to the fishing village of Pourville. This was a landscape of rugged cliffs with several subjects of interest to him, among them the customs officer’s house near Varengeville. Furthermore, the beaches were deserted in the winter months, making them ideal for painting. Monet began several new series, sometimes working on eight canvases at once so that he needed help transporting his equipment and canvases from one place to another.

In the 1880s, when sales of his paintings began to pick up and his financial situation became less dire, Monet was at last able to rent a holiday home in Pourville. His new partner, Alice Hoschedé, and her daughter Blanche, who also painted, often accompanied him on his painting expeditions there, and he received visits from both Durand-Ruel and Renoir. In January 1883 Monet visited the village of Étretat, famed for its precipitous cliffs and arches, and there found several motifs right in front of the hotel. He also sought out remote beaches with views of the Manneporte Arch, which he proceeded to paint in different light conditions, often working on several canvases at once. While painting on a secluded beach on November 27, 1885, Monet miscalculated the incoming tide and was hurled against the face of a cliff by a wave. He told Alice that his brush and painting equipment had fallen into the sea, but that what annoyed him most was that the wave had washed away the canvas he was working on. Monet finished all of his over fifty paintings of Étretat in his studio in Giverny, which by then had become his permanent home.


On the Seine: Argenteuil, Vétheuil, and Poissy

On December 21, 1871, Monet rented a house in Argenteuil, a suburb northwest of Paris that allowed him to live in the country but remain within easy reach of the city. Thanks to the sale of several paintings as well as Camille s dowry and inheritance, the Monets were able to employ three servants and Monet himself bought a boat that he converted into a floating studio. Argenteuil became an important center for the Impressionists; Cézanne, Manet, Pissarro, Sisley, and Renoir all visited Monet there. In 1873 Monet met Gustave Caillebotte. One motif that Monet found especially interesting was the railway bridge of Argenteuil. It was destroyed in the Franco-Prussian War but rebuilt soon afterward, making it a symbol of French resilience – and further evidence of Monet’s general interest in bridges. In 1878 the Monets moved to Vétheuil, a little village on the Seine, some sixty kilometers away from Paris. As Monet’s patron Hoschedé was undergoing financial difficulties at the time, he and his wife, Alice, and their six children shared a house with the Monets. Monet’s wife, Camille, had just given birth to their second son, Michel, but was already ill with cervical cancer.

Their financial situation had deteriorated and they were no longer able to pay their servants. As a devout Christian, Alice Hoschedé took it upon herself to ensure that the Monets, who had married in a civil ceremony only, received the blessing of the Church for their union and that Camille Monet was given the last rites. Camille died on September 5, 1879, in Vétheuil and was buried in the cemetery there. The winter of 1879-80 was exceptionally cold and the Seine froze over. On January 5, 1880, the Hoschedé-Monet family awoke to the sound of the ice breaking apart, and Monet spent the next few days painting dozens of impressions of this spectacle. As Ernest Hoschedé mainly resided in Paris and visited his family only occasionally, Monet and Alice lived more or less alone with their children in Vétheuil, and before long they were rumoured to be having an affair. In 1881 they decided to move again. Monet had been unable to find a suitable school for his son Jean, and Alice was considering whether to return to Ernest in Paris with the children. In the end, however, both Monet and Alice moved to Poissy in December of that year. When Poissy proved uninspiring, however, the two families resumed their quest for the perfect home, which they would find in Giverny in 1883, some seventy kilometers northeast of Paris.


On the Mediterranean

In December 1883 Monet accompanied Renoir on a short trip to the Mediterranean. They traveled from Marseille to Genoa and visited Cézanne in L’Estaque. Monet was especially taken with the little town of Bordighera on the Ligurian Riviera and vowed to return there in January 1884, this time without Renoir, in order to paint in peace. The three-week stay originally planned eventually turned into three months, during which Monet explored the region, visited several mountain villages, and admired the wonderful gardens of Francesco Moreno, where to his great delight he was able to paint palms. The colours and new motifs brought Monet close to despair, and he complained to Alice of how difficult it was to paint the landscape as it really looked. Visibly fascinated by the warm light of the Mediterranean, he declared that he would need a palette of diamonds and jewels to capture its féerique (magical) atmosphere. Although in her replies Alice made no secret of her displeasure at the painter’s constant absences, Monet chose to linger in the south and continued the series he had just begun. He also traveled to Cap Martin and to Monte Carlo, painting as he went. In January 1888 he painted several views of Antibes.

In late September 1908 he visited Venice – one of only a few trips undertaken together with Alice – where he was especially impressed by the Grand Canal, the Doge’s Palace, and the church of San Giorgio Maggiore. When the pair left Venice again, in December 1908, Monet consoled himself with the thought that he would return there the following year, although he already had an inkling that that was “a forlorn hope.” Even so, the 1912 Claude Monet: Venise exhibition, comprising twenty-nine views of Venice and held at the Galerie Bernheim- Jeune, was a great success.



Léon Monet, who ran the Rouen branch of a Swiss chemical company, was on good terms with his younger brother, Claude. Jean, the elder of Monet’s two sons, would later work for Léon, providing the painter with another good reason for visiting Rouen. It was probably at his brother’s instigation that Monet took part in the 23ème Exposition municipale des Beaux-Arts, in Rouen in March 1872. Monet discovered his fascination with the Gothic towers of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, the cathedral in Rouen, which would become such a major preoccupation of his later years. He had planned to return to Rouen for longer painting projects as early as the spring of 1891, but in the end was too busy expanding his garden in Giverny to leave. In February 1892, however, he was offered the use of an empty apartment that looked out onto the cathedral’s west façade. In March of that year he took lodgings above a boutique that offered a similar view but from a slightly different angle. While in Rouen he worked on nine canvases at the same time, painting from early morning to late evening. The intensity was not without consequences, and Monet was afflicted by nightmares in which the cathedral – “it seemed to be blue, pink, or yellow” – came crashing down on top of him. The constantly changing light drove Monet almost to despair, and by 1893 he was working on up to fourteen canvases at once. In early 1894 he began preparing an exhibition of his cathedral paintings, but was plagued by doubts over whether he was up to the task. Twenty paintings in the series were to be exhibited as a solo show at the gallery of his art dealer, Durand-Ruel, in 1895. Believing that this might be an opportunity to raise his market value, he decided to demand 15,000 francs per painting. Durand-Ruel was so appalled that he refused to be involved in the actual sales and left the negotiations to the painter himself. Most of the works were well received in the press and would meet with acclaim in other exhibitions, too. Although Monet never received 15,000 francs for his cathedrals during his lifetime, the French state did at least pay 10,500 francs for the one that it bought for the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris in 1907.



On July 19, 1870, Napoléon III declared war on Prussia. Fearful of being conscripted, Monet fled to London at the beginning of October that year, taking Camille and their son Jean with him. There he met Paul Durand-Ruel, who was likewise a refugee and would become Monet’s most important art dealer. Durand-Ruel’s first documented sale of a Monet work was in May 1871. Together with Pissarro, Monet visited London’s many museums and there admired the works of Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Constable. When the war ended in late May 1871, Monet returned to France via the Netherlands. Although he would return to London on several occasions in the following years, his stays would invariably be brief and motivated mainly by visits to fellow painters. His desire to paint various views of the Thames swathed in fog nevertheless comes up in several letters. When his youngest son, Michel, went to London to study, Monet, Alice, and Alice’s daughter Germaine paid him a visit there in September 1899. They stayed at the luxurious Savoy Hotel, which has excellent views of the Thames. Monet was thus able to spend a whole month painting Charing Cross Bridge to excess, dedicating himself intensively to Waterloo Bridge later on.

He would return to London in the next two years, and in 1900 set up his easel in a room in St. Thomas’ Hospital that commanded an especially fine view of Westminster. While there, Monet received a visit from Georges Clemenceau, a personal friend of his and later an important French statesman, through whose good offices he was granted permission to paint in the Tower of London – a dispensation he never made use of. The thick fog that he woke up to toward the end of his stay in 1901 was grounds enough for him to postpone his departure. Many of the canvases begun in London were actually finished back in Monet’s studio in Giverny. There he also began to destroy some of them, admitting to Durand-Ruel that “my mistake is to try to improve them.” An exhibition of selected London paintings held in Paris at Durand-Ruel’s in May 1904 met with great acclaim.



Monet signed a lease for a house with a plot of land in Giverny and moved in on April 29, 1883, bought it in 1890, and lived there until his death, for over forty years all told. Alice and her children moved in the very next day after the lease was signed. The village near the Seine is not far from Vernon, which is where the older children went to school. The two-story house was big enough to accommodate the large family, and the barn was readily converted into a painting studio. In the first summer there, Monet built a boathouse so that he could explore his environs in search of suitable motifs by boat. He also began planting a garden, which soon became an enduring passion. He painted views of the church of Vernon as well as his first fields with grain stacks. It was on the tiny Île aux Orties, which Monet bought as a place to moor his boats, that he painted Alice’s daughter Suzanne with a parasol (Essai de figure en plein-air: Femme à l’obrelle, 1886). Apart from his French painter friends, he was visited by both the American painter John Singer Sargent (in 1885 and 1887) and Georges Clemenceau, the former of whom painted both Monet and Blanche Hoschedé at work. The first grain stacks began to appear in late 1888. Monet traveled much less after 1890 and tended to confine himself to just a few motifs that he painted in series. He clearly felt at home in Giverny and lavished a great amount of time (and money) on the cultivation of his garden there, which became a favourite preoccupation. Many of his motifs were now to be found on his doorstep, among them the aforementioned grain stacks, which in 1890-91 he painted no fewer than twenty-five times in varying light. Ernest Hoschedé died in Paris in 1891 with his wife, Alice, at his side. He was buried in Giverny. In the spring of 1891 Monet began painting a series of a row of poplars on the Epte River two kilometers away from his home, which he visited in his studio boat. When the poplars came up for auction in August of that year, he paid the timber merchant to leave them standing until he had finished painting them.

A little less than a year later Monet and Alice married in Giverny. Work on their property continued, and in early 1893 Monet purchased the adjoining plot with the aim of creating a water lily pond. In the summer of 1896 Monet began work on his Matinée sur la Seine series, for which he set off for work in his boat at half past three in the morning. In 1899 he had a second studio built specifically for the purpose of finishing paintings begun en plein air, while the first studio, being larger, would henceforth serve mainly as a showroom. Water lilies were becoming an increasingly important subject by now, and in 1901 he purchased land again, to enlarge his pond. He also had a third studio built to allow him to commence work on the monumental water lily wall panels (the Grandes Décorations). From 1909 on, Monet’s sight deteriorated to such an extent that he had to undergo various operations, notwithstanding his fears that these might change his perception of colour. Alice fell ill with a rare form of leukaemia and died in 1911, with a distraught Monet by her side. Following the death of his son Jean, in 1914, Blanche, who was both Monet’s stepdaughter and daughter-in-law, moved into the house at Giverny and cared for the deeply grieved artist. Yet he continued painting, right to the end of his days, finding most of his motifs in his own garden. It was also in Giverny that Monet, who died of lung cancer on December 5, 1926, would find his final resting place. He was buried in the same grave as his son Jean (1914), his wife Alice (1911), her first husband, Ernest Hoschedé (1891), and their daughters Suzanne (1899) and Marthe (1925).

The present chronology is based on the accounts provided in Charles F. Stuckey, “Chronology,” in Claude Monet 1840-1926, exh. cat. The Art Institute of Chicago (London and Chicago, 1995), p. 185–266; and quotations cited from the artist’s letters published in Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné (Paris and Lausanne, 1974-91), vols. 1-5.


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Sunset on the Seine in Winter' 1880


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Sunset on the Seine in Winter
Oil on canvas
60.6 x 81.1 cm
Pola Museum of Art, Pola Art Foundation


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Morning on the Seine' 1897


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Morning on the Seine
Oil on canvas
89.9 x 92.7 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933
Photo: © The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY / Scala, Florence


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Charing Cross Bridge: Fog on the Thames' 1903


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Charing Cross Bridge: Fog on the Thames
Oil on canvas
73.7 x 92.4 cm
Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum, Donation of Mrs. Henry Lyman, 1979
Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Houses of Parliament, Stormy Sky' 1904


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Houses of Parliament, Stormy Sky
Oil on canvas
81 x 92 cm
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, legs de Maurice Masson, 1949
Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais / René-Gabriel Ojéda


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Île aux Orties near Vernon' 1897


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Île aux Orties near Vernon
Oil on canvas
73.3 x 92.7 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh, 1960
Photo: © bpk / The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Meadow at Giverny, Autumn Effect' 1886


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Meadow at Giverny, Autumn Effect
Oil on canvas
92.1 x 81.6 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Juliana Cheney Edwards Collection
Photo: © 2017 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Claude Monet (1840-1926) 'Water-Lilies' 1916-1919


Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Oil on canvas
200 x 180 cm
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen / Basel, Beyeler Collection
Photo: Robert Bayer
The restoration of this art work is supported by the BNP Paribas Swiss Fondation



Fondation Beyeler
Beyeler Museum AG
Baselstrasse 77, CH-4125
Riehen, Switzerland

Opening hours:
10 am – 6 pm daily, Wednesdays until 8 pm

Fondation Beyeler website


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Exhibition: ‘Masculine / Masculine: The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the present day’ at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2013 – 2nd January 2014


Camille Félix Bellanger. 'Abel' 1874-75


Camille Félix Bellanger (French, 1853-1953)
Oil on canvas
110.5cm (43.5 in) x 215.4cm (84.8 in)
© Musée d’Orsay



The von Gloeden is stunning and some of the paintings are glorious: the muscularity / blood red colour in Falguière by Lutteurs d’Alexandre (1875, below); the beauty of Ángel Zárraga’s Votive Offering (Saint Sebastian) (1912, below); the sheer nakedness and earthiness of the Freud; and the colour, form and (homo)eroticism of The Bath by Paul Cadmus (1951, below), with their pert buttocks and hands washing suggestively.

But there is nothing too outrageous here. Heaven forbid!

After all, this is the male nude as curatorial commodity.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Musée d’Orsay for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.




“The high brow peep show is divided thematically into depictions of religion, mythology, athleticism, homosexuality, and shifting notions of manliness. Wandering the Musee’s grand halls you will see rippling Greco-Roman Apollonian gods, Egon Schiele’s finely rendered, debauched self portraits and David LaChapelle’s 90s macho-kitsch celebs. Edward Munch’s hazy, pastel bathers mingle with Lucian Freud’s grossly erotic fleshy animals and reverent depictions of Christ and Saint Sebastian, showing the many ways to interpret a body sans outerwear.”

Priscilla Frank. “‘Masculine/Masculine’ Explores Male Nude Throughout Art History And We Couldn’t Be Happier (NSFW),” on the Huffpost Arts and Culture website, 26/09/2013 updated 07/12/2017 [Online] Cited 02/01/2021



Jean Delville (1867-1953) 'École de Platon' (School of Plato) 1898


Jean Delville (Belgium, 1867-1953)
École de Platon (School of Plato)
Oil on canvas
H. 260; W. 605cm
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski



In the late 19th century, Belgium was one of the great centres of European symbolism. Jean Delville’s paintings and writings expressed the most esoteric side of the movement. In the mid-1880s, Delville’s discovery of the symbolist milieu in Paris and the friendships he made there led him to break with the naturalism inherited from his academic training. Thus his friendship with the Sâr Péladan and his regular attendance at the Salon of the Rose+Croix, testified to his belief in an intellectual art which focused on evocation more than description.

School of Plato, a decoration intended for the Sorbonne but never installed there, is a striking work in many respects. Its monumental size and its ambitious message – an interpretation of classical philosophy seen through the prism of the symbolist ideal – set it apart. The manifesto makes no secret of its references, from Raphael to Puvis de Chavannes, but envelops them in the strange charm of a deliberately unreal colour range. The ambiguity emanating from this fin de siècle Mannerism knowingly blurs the borderline between purity and sensuality.


Jules Elie Delaunay. 'Ixion Thrown Into the Flames' 1876


Jules-Élie Delaunay (French, 1828-1891)
Ixion Thrown Into the Flames
© RMN-Grand Palais / Gérard Blot


Eadweard Muybridge. 'Motion Study (Men wrestling)' 1887


Eadweard Muybridge (British, 1830-1904)
Motion Study (Men wrestling)
Plate 332 from Animal Locomotion
Collotype plate 1872-1885
© Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN / Alexis Brandt


Kehinde Wiley. 'Death of Abel Study' 2008


Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977)
Death of Abel Study
© Kehinde Wiley, Courtesy Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA & Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris


Paul Cézanne. 'Baigneurs' (Bathers) 1890


Paul Cézanne (French, 1839-1906)
Baigneurs (Bathers)
Oil on canvas
60.0 (h) x 82.0 (w) cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Gift of Baroness Eva Gebhard-Gourgaud 1965
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski



In this work the arrangement of the bathers is brilliantly orchestrated – a complex grouping of foregrounded figures is contrapuntally arranged against another group occupying the middle ground. There is a strong classical echo to the triangular, pedimental architecture of these four foregrounded figures, anchoring the work compositionally. The effect is to create an architecturally interlocking circle of figures surrounding a group of bathers in the water or sitting on the banks. The corporeal presence of the foregrounded figures and the luminosity of their skin tones are echoed in the volumetric forms of the cumulus clouds that loom in the background. We see Cézanne’s technical confidence in the way the terrain has been flattened and the treescape simplified. He uses trees here not for their anecdotal fidelity, but to anchor the composition at key points.

There is an undeniable sense of ritual in this work. Some commentators interpret the scene as baptismal – Cézanne became a devout catholic in 1890 – with the figure at left pouring water over the head of a partially submerged bather to his right. But it is also clear here that Cézanne mixes the sacred with the profane. There is a celebratory, Arcadian purity which finds its mirror in the compositional structure as a whole, whether it be the way in which light reflects off the facets of the bodies or in which it is refracted off the looming cloud masses. A paganistic, sensual exuberance informs the way in which the figures circle the bathers in the water, which Henri Matisse’s famous The dance 1910 will later recall. (Matisse was a great admirer of Cézanne’s work and owned a number of his paintings.) And it is probably no coincidence that the ‘attendant’ holds a luminous, vulva-shaped towel at the very centre of the composition. Grammatically, the title Baigneurs does not preclude the possibility that some of the participants may be female – the seated figure who is, significantly, adjacent to the towel, appears to be clearly female, for example. Bathers, then, is redolent with meaning. This is a powerfully multivalent work, and along with the later The large bathers paintings of 1894-1905 and 1900–05, is considered to be one of Cézanne’s great masterpieces.

Mark Henshaw

Text from the National Gallery of Canberra website [Online] Cited 02/01/2021


Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) 'Les adolescents' (Teenagers) 1906


Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)
Les adolescents (Teenagers)
Oil on canvas
157 x 117cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (musée de l’Orangerie) / Hervé Lewandowski © Succession Picasso 2015



This red/pink monochrome that characterises The Adolescents first appeared after Picasso’s visit to Gosol with his partner Fernande. The earth in this village in the Catalan Pyrenees was done in an unusual ochre colour that Picasso included in his “Rose Period” (1904-1906). Two nude figures, outlined and modelled on a monochrome background, give the image a sculptural and classical character. The poses are hieratic: the young man crosses his arms above his head, while the young woman, or androgynous adolescent, balances a pitcher on her head in a timeless pose. Jean Cassou highlighted the Mediterranean character of this brief phase in Picasso’s art, and its relationship with the art of Maillol (1861-1944). Undulating lines can be made out below the legs of the two figures. This in fact is the sketch from another composition intended to be in horizontal format, but which the artist chose to erase. Paul Guillaume bought this beautiful painting in 1930. It came from the art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939). The “pink classicism” of this painting seems to anticipate the period after 1906 of the “return to order”, which characterised Picasso’s work in the 1920s, and which corresponds with other paintings in the Orangerie like the large Bathers of the 1920s.

Provenance: Ambroise Vollard, Paris; Paul Guillaume (1930); Domenica Walter

Text from the Musée de l’Orangerie website [Online] Cited 08/01/2021


Auguste Rodin. 'The Age of Bronze' 1875-76


Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
The Age of Bronze
H. 180.5cm ; W. 68.5cm ; D. 54.5cm



Made in Brussels, this figure, one of Rodin’s most famous works, attests to the sculptor’s masterly skill and his attention to living nature that informs the pose and the modelling.A young Belgian soldier, Auguste Ney,was the model for this statue devoid of any element that would shed light on the subject’s identity. The untitled work was exhibited at the Cercle Artistique, Brussels, in 1877, then, entitled The Age of Bronze, at the Salon in Paris, where it caused a scandal.

Also known as The Awakening Man or The Vanquished One, the statue recalls one of the early ages of mankind. There was originally a spear in the left hand, as is shown in a photograph by Gaudenzio Marconi, but Rodin decided to suppress the weapon so as to free the arm of any attribute and infuse the gesture with a new liberality.

Accused of having used a life cast of his sitter, when the statue was shown in Paris, Rodin had to prove that the quality of his sculpture’s modelling came from a thorough study of profiles, not from a life cast. His critics eventually recognised that the sculptor was innocent of any trickery. The scandal, however, did draw attention to Rodin and earned him the commission for The Gates of Hell in 1880.

Text from the Musée Rodin website [Online] Cited 08/01/2020



While it has been quite natural for the female nude to be regularly exhibited, the male nude has not been accorded the same treatment. It is highly significant that until the show at the Leopold Museum in Vienna in the autumn of 2012, no exhibition had opted to take a fresh approach, over a long historical perspective, to the representation of the male nude. However, male nudity was for a long time, from the 17th to 19th centuries, the basis of traditional Academic art training and a key element in Western creative art. Therefore when presenting the exhibition Masculine / Masculine, the Musée d’Orsay, drawing on the wealth of its own collections (with several hitherto unknown sculptures) and on other French public collections, aims to take an interpretive, playful, sociological and philosophical approach to exploring all aspects and meanings of the male nude in art. Given that the 19th century took its inspiration from 18th century classical art, and that this influence still resonates today, the Musée d’Orsay is extending its traditional historical range in order to draw a continuous arc of creation through two centuries down to the present day. The exhibition will include the whole range of techniques: painting, sculpture, graphic arts and, of course, photography, which will have an equal place in the exhibition.

To convey the specifically masculine nature of the body, the exhibition, in preference to a dull chronological presentation, takes the visitor on a journey through a succession of thematic focuses, including the aesthetic canons inherited from Antiquity, their reinterpretation in the Neo-Classical, Symbolist and contemporary eras where the hero is increasingly glorified, the Realist fascination for truthful representation of the body, nudity as the body’s natural state, the suffering of the body and the expression of pain, and finally its eroticisation. The aim is to establish a genuine dialogue between different eras in order to reveal how certain artists have been prompted to reinterpret earlier works. In the mid 18th century, Winckelmann examined the legacy of the divine proporzioni of the body inherited from Antiquity, which, in spite of radical challenges, still apply today having mysteriously come down through the history of art as the accepted definition of beauty. From Jacques-Louis David to George Platt-Lynes, LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles, and including Gustave Moreau, a whole series of connections is revealed, based around issues of power, censorship, modesty, the boundaries of public expectation and changes in social mores.

Winckelmann’s glorification of Greek beauty reveals an implicit carnal desire, relating to men as well as women, which certainly comes down through two centuries from the “Barbus” group and from David’s studio, to David Hockney and the film director James Bidgood. This sensibility also permeates the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries as it questions its own identity, as we see in the extraordinary painting École de Platon [School of Plato], inexplicably purchased by the French state in 1912 from the Belgian artist Delville. Similarly, the exhibition will reveal other visual and intellectual relationships through the works of artists as renowned as Georges de La Tour, Pierre Puget, Abilgaard, Paul Flandrin, Bouguereau, Hodler, Schiele, Munch, Picasso, Bacon, Mapplethorpe, Freud and Mueck, while lining up some surprises like the Mexican Angel Zarraga’s Saint Sébastien (Saint Sebastian), De Chirico’s Les Bains mystérieux (Mysterious Baths) and the erotica of Americans Charles Demuth and Paul Cadmus.

This autumn therefore, the Musée d’Orsay will invite the visitor to an exhibition that challenges the continuity of a theme that has always interested artists, through unexpected yet productive confrontations between the various revivals of the nude man in art.”

Press release from the Musée d’Orsay website


Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) 'Academy Drawing of a Man, said to be Patroclu' 1778


Jacques Louis David (French, 1748-1825)
Academy Drawing of a Man, said to be Patroclu
Oil on canvas
H. 122; W. 170cm
Cherbourg, musée Thomas-Henry
© Cherbourg, musée Thomas-Henry



Masculine / Masculine

Why had there never been an exhibition dedicated to the male nude until Nackte Männer at the Leopold Museum in Vienna last year? In order to answer this question, the exhibition sets out to compare works of different eras and techniques, around great themes that have shaped the image of the male body for over two centuries.

We must distinguish above all between nudity and the nude: a body simply without clothes, that causes embarrassment with its lack of modesty, is different from the radiant vision of a body restructured and idealised by the artist. Although this distinction can be qualified, it highlights the positive, uninhibited approach to the nude in western art since the Classical Period.

Today, the nude essentially brings to mind a female body, the legacy of a 19th century that established it as an absolute and as the accepted object of male desire. Prior to this, however, the female body was regarded less favourably than its more structured, more muscular male counterpart. Since the Renaissance, the male nude had been accorded more importance: the man as a universal being became a synonym for Mankind, and his body was established as the ideal human form, as was already the case in Greco-Roman art. Examples of this interpretation abound in the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage: Adam existed before Eve, who was no more than his copy and the origin of sin. Most artists being male, they found an “ideal me” in the male nude, a magnified, narcissistic reflection of themselves. And yet, until the middle of the 20th century, the sexual organ was the source of a certain embarrassment, whether shrunken or well hidden beneath strategically placed drapery, thong or scabbard.


Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais (1756-1813) 'Le Berger Pâris' (The Shepherd, Paris) 1787


Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais (French, 1756-1813)
Le Berger Pâris (The Shepherd, Paris)
Oil on canvas
H. 177 ; L. 118cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa
© Photo: MBAC



The Classic Ideal

From the 17th century, training of the highest standard was organised for the most privileged artists. In sculpture and in history painting, the ultimate aim of this teaching was to master the representation of the male nude: this was central to the creative process, as the preparatory studies had to capture the articulation of the body as closely as possible, whether clothed or not, in the finished composition.

In France, pupils studied at the Académie Royale then at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, working from drawings, engravings, sculptures “in the round” and life models. Right up until the late 20th century, these models were exclusively male, for reasons of social morality, but also because the man was considered to have the archetypal human form. In order to be noble and worthy of artistic representation, and to appeal to all, this could not be the body of an ordinary man: the distinctive features of the model had to be tempered in order to elevate the subject.

Above all, the artists of Antiquity and of the Renaissance were considered to have established an ideal synthesis of the human body without being distracted by individual characteristics. For Winckelmann, the German 18th century aesthete, the ideal beauty of Greek statues could only be embodied by the male nude. But although it inspired numerous artists, the “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur” of Winckelmann’s gods was undermined by other interpretations of Classical art: the torment of Laocoon, a work from late Antiquity, can be seen in the work of the Danish painter Abildgaard, while David advocated a much more Roman masculinity. Even when challenged, reinterpreted and renewed by the 20th century avant-garde, the Classical male nude and its rich legacy remains an object of fascination right up to the inter-war years and up to the present day.


George Hoyningen-Huene (1900-1968) 'Horst P. Horst, Photographie' 1932


George Hoyningen-Huene (American, born Russia 1900-1968)
Horst P. Horst, Photographie
Tirage argentique
H. 19 x L. 22.7cm
Hambourg, FC Gundlach
© Droits réservés



The Heroic Nude

The concept and the word “hero” itself come from ancient Greece: whether a demigod or simply a mortal transcending his human condition to become an exemplum virtutis, he embodies an ideal. The admiration for Classical art and culture explains the ubiquity of the hero in Academic painting, particularly in subjects given to candidates of the Prix de Rome: great history painting thrived on the exploits of supermen in the most perfect bodies.

This connection between anatomy and heroic virtue, conveying noble and universal values, goes back to the Neo-Platonic concept linking beauty and goodness. The hero’s nudity has been so self-evident that the “heroic nude” has become the subject of a recurrent debate about the representation of great men, past or present, no matter how incongruous the result may appear.

Heroism is not a state, rather a means by which the strength of character of an exceptional being man is revealed: although Hercules’ strength is inseparable from his exploits, it was David’s cunning that overcame the powerful Goliath. In both cases they are endowed with a warrior’s strength, which was particularly valued by a 19th century thirsting for virility and patriotic assertion: more than ever, this was the ideal to be attained. We had to wait for the 20th century crisis of masculinity before we could see the renewal of the status of the increasingly contemporary hero, and the diversification of his physical characteristics. However, whether a star or a designer like Yves Saint-Laurent, or even the young men on the streets of Harlem painted by the American Kehinde Wiley, the evocative power of nudity remains.


Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953) 'Vive la France' 2006


Pierre et Gilles (Pierre Commoy, b. 1950 and Gilles Blanchard, b. 1953)
Vive la France
(models: Serge, Moussa and Robert)
Painted photograph, unique piece
H. 125 x W. 101cm
© Pierre et Gilles



The Gods of the Stadium

The 20th century witnessed the start of a new way of looking at the human body where the focus was on medical aspects and hygiene, and this had a considerable impact on the concept of the artistic nude. Numerous physical education movements and gymnasia appeared. People were captivated by the figure of the “sportsman” and, as in the work of the painter Eugene Jansson, came to admire and covet the virile power of his body in action. This concept is realised in culturalism, the narcissistic admiration of a body that has become an object to be fashioned like an artwork in its own right. Modern man with his athletic morphology has become a new potential ideal: he embodies a beauty that invites comparison with Greco-Roman art.

Linked with the affirmation of national identity, the athlete has come to personify the brute force of the nation and an ability to defend the country in times of war. During the 1930s in the United States, the image of the athlete evolved in a distinctive way, highlighting the ordinary man as a mixture of physical strength and bravery. Totalitarian regimes, however, perverted the cult of the athlete in order to promote their own ideology: Germany linked it in a demiurgic way with the made-up concept of the “Aryan” race, while Mussolini’s government erected marble idols on the Stadio dei Marmi.


Jean-Bernard Duseigneur (1808-1866) 'Orlando Furioso' 1867


Jean-Bernard Duseigneur (French, 1808-1866)
Orlando Furioso
Cast in bronze
H. 130; W. 146; D. 90cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
© Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier



It’s tough being a Hero

As he moves outside the established order, the mythological hero risks the anger of the gods and the jealousy of men. Although his passions, his moral shortcomings and occasionally his frailties stem from his human condition, he is happy to possess the perfect form of the gods: thus the artist and the spectator find expression of a perfect self. The great dramatic destinies thus give character to the compositions, and enable them to interpret a whole range of emotions from determination to despair, from hostility to eternal rest.

Although it is a platitude to say that feelings are expressed most accurately in the face – from the theorised and institutional drawings of Charles Le Brun to the “tête d’expression” competition at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts – one must not underestimate the key role of the body and the anatomy as vehicles for expressing emotion: certain formal choices even led to generally accepted conventions.

Mythology and the Homeric epic abound with stories of the ill-fated destinies and destructive passions of heroes, whose nudity is justified by its origins in ancient Greece: Joseph-Désiré Court displays the broken body of the ill-fated Hippolytus, a premonition of the transposition in the ancient world of Mort pour la patrie [Dying for The Fatherland] of Lecomte du Nouÿ.


Nude Veritas

The Realist aesthetic, which came to the fore in western art during the 19th century, had a dramatic effect on the representation of male nudity. The human body, represented as nature intended, was no longer seen from the decorous distance that characterised the idealised image of the nude, a goal to be achieved through Academic drawing exercises. In this context, where revealing the body was an affront to modesty – in the male-dominated society of the 19th century, the unclothed male appeared even more obscene and shocking than the unclothed female – the male nude gradually became less common as female figures proliferated.

This reversal did not mean, however, that naked men disappeared altogether: scientific study of the male nude, aided by new techniques such as the decomposition of movement through a series of photographs taken in rapid succession – chronophotography – brought advances in the study of anatomy and transformed the teaching of art students. From then on, it was less a case, for the most avant-garde artists, of striving to reproduce a canon of beauty inherited from the past, than of representing a body that retained the harmony of the model’s true characteristics.

The evocative power of the nude inspired artists like the Austrian Schiele to produce nude self portraits that revealed the existential torments of the artist. Invested at times with a Christ-like dimension, these depictions, moving beyond realism into introspection, continued to be produced right up to the 21st century, especially in photography.


William Bouguereau (1825-1905) 'Equality before Death' 1848


William Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
Equality before Death
Oil on Canvas
H. 141; W. 269cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt



Without compromise

The fascination for reality established in artistic circles in the mid 19th century prompted a thorough renewal of religious painting. Although resorting to the classical idealisation of the body seemed to be consistent with religious dogma, artists like Bonnat breathed fresh life into the genre by depicting the harsh truth of the physical condition of biblical figures.

This principle was already at work in Egalité devant la mort [Equality before Death], by Bouguereau, who, in his early work, in the final days of Romanticism, exploited the power of the image of an ordinary corpse. Rodin, far from enhancing the appearance of the novelist that he was invited to celebrate, sought to render Balzac’s corpulent physique with implacable accuracy, without diminishing his grandeur in any way.

The question is thus raised of art’s relationship to reality, a question Ron Mueck tackles in his work. And the strange effect brought about by a change of scale gives an intensity to the dead body of his father that echoes the dead figure in Bouguereau’s painting.


Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) 'Fisherman with a Net' 1868


Frédéric Bazille (French, 1841-1870)
Fisherman with a Net
Oil on canvas
H. 134; W. 83cm
Zurich, Rau Foundation for the Third World
© Lylho / Leemage


Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864) 'Nude Youth Sitting by the Sea, Study' 1836


Hippolyte Flandrin (French, 1809-1864)
Nude Youth Sitting by the Sea, Study
Oil on canvas
H. 98; W. 124cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
© Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Angèle Dequier




Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931)
Cain, Taormine, Sicile
© Westlicht, Musée de la Photographie, Vienna



In Nature

Including the naked body in a landscape was not a new challenge for 19th century artists. In many aspects, this was recurrent in large-scale history painting, and a demanding artistic exercise by which a painter’s technical mastery was judged. It was about making the relationship between the naked body and its setting as accurate as possible in terms of proportion, depth and light. Although Bazille’s Pêcheur à l’épervier [Fisherman with a Net] is one of the most successful attempts – in a contemporary context – at depicting a naked man in an atmospheric light that the Impressionists later took for their own, he nevertheless observed the principles of academic construction.

Masculine nudity in nature took another meaning as society was transformed through technical advances and urbanisation. Man was now seeking a communion with nature, that could reconcile him with the excesses and the sense of dislocation created by the modern world, while still conforming to the theories of good health advocating physical exercise and fresh air.


In pain

In allowing themselves to deviate from the classical norms, artists opened up new possibilities for a more expressive representation of a body in the throes of torment or pain. The decline of the Academic nude and of classical restraint explains this predilection for ordeals: Ixion’s for example, condemned by Zeus to be bound to an eternally spinning wheel of fire.

The writhing body can also express torment of a more psychological nature. The pain experienced by the male body naturally relates to the issues of power between men and women in contemporary society: the naked body can be demeaning and, in certain circumstances, likely to call into question virility and male domination. In this respect, Louise Bourgeois’ choice of a male figure for her Arch of Hysteria was not a random one.

The martyr can, nevertheless, inspire compositions other than the tortured body: the death of Abel, killed by his brother Cain in the Book of Genesis, seems, on the contrary, to have inspired the pose of a totally relaxed body at the point of death. This abandon, however, conveyed a certain ambivalence that artists were determined to exploit: the body, often magnified and in state of morbid ecstasy, was in fact there for the spectator to relish. In these cases, suffering was merely a device to justify fetishising the body once again. In contrast with this seductive treatment, photographers engaged in experiments to divide the body into individual parts, in an aesthetic or even playful approach.


François-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837) 'The Dying Saint Sebastian' 1789


François-Xavier Fabre (French, 1766-1837)
The Dying Saint Sebastian
Oil on canvas
H. 196; W. 147cm
Montpellier, Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération
© Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération – cliché Frédéric Jaulmes




Ángel Zárraga (Mexican, 1886-1946)
Votive Offering (Saint Sebastian)
Oil on canvas
© Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico



The Glorious body

Judeo-Christian culture has undeniably influenced the representation of the naked man since the beginning of modern art. However, the Catholic concept of the body has been at variance with nudity since Paleochristian times: the body is merely the corporeal envelope from which the soul is freed on death. Influenced by theologians advocating the union of the sensory and the spiritual, nudity gradually became accepted for important figures such as Christ and Saint Sebastian. Their martyred bodies, transcended by suffering endured through faith, paradoxically allowed the human soul to come close to God.

For the Catholic church, the vulnerability of Christ’s body, subjected to suffering and bearing the stigmata, is evidence of his humanity, while his divinity is revealed in his inspired expression and his idealised body, a legacy of the underlying classical models. The figure of Saint Sebastian is especially complex: this popular saint, the epitome of the martyr who survives his first ordeal, embodies the victory of life over death. This life force is no doubt related to his youthful beauty and his naked body, both of which made their appearance in the 17th century. This being the case, his representation gradually moves away from Catholic dogma, and acquires an unprecedented freedom and life of its own: his sensuality is more and more obvious, whereas his suffering is at times impossible to detect. In this quest for sensual pleasure, and until the 20th century, the only taboo was to reveal the penis.


Paul Cadmus (1904-1999) 'The Bath' 1951


Paul Cadmus (American, 1904-1999)
The Bath
Tempera on card
H. 36.4; W. 41.4cm
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art
Anonymous gift
© Whitney Museum of American Art, NY – Art
© Jon F. Anderson, Estate of Paul Cadmus / ADAGP, Paris 2013




Boris Ignatovitch (Russian, 1899-1976)
Douche (Shower)
Silver gelatin photograph



In Shower, a group of young athletes enjoys a therapeutic water massage; in the foreground is the back of a young man, whose stately figure takes up almost the entire frame. The masterful light and airiness of the image have a stunning aesthetic effect, illuminating the drops of water that are sprinkled across the spine and muscles of his tanned back. Aleksandr Deineka (1899-1969) was so captivated by the powerful composition of Shower that he recreated the scene in his painting After the Battle (1937-1942, below).

Text from the Nailya Alexander Gallery website [Online] Cited 10/01/2021


Aleksandr Deyneka (Russian, 1899-1969) 'After the Battle' 1937-1942


Aleksandr Deyneka (Russian, 1899-1969)
After the Battle
Oil on canvas
Kursk State Art Gallery



This painting was inspired by a photograph by legendary Soviet photographer Boris Ignatovich that he had presented to Deyneka (above). The artist thought the composition with an athlete in the foreground was perfection itself. However, he had difficulty transferring it to the canvas, and the painting took five years to complete. Deyneka finished it at the height of World War II, which is why the athletes in the title had turned into soldiers.

Anonymous text from the Russia Beyond website December 2019 [Online] Cited 10/01/2021


“This male homoeroticism maintains close ties with the revolutionary project to destroy the family and traditional marriage and the construction of new types of social relations based on collective values ​​above all, with the idea that the bonds of friendship and camaraderie between men (homosociality, “male bonding”) are equally or more important than heterosexual bonding. It is mainly in the period from the Revolution to the 1930s the values ​​of friendship and camaraderie seem particularly highlighted the detriment of the bonds of love, very devalued as “petty-bourgeois”, but even more later, with the Stalinist project of “restoration” of the family, it can be assumed that the emotional and romantic in the heterosexual couple have never been a pervasive and rewarding cultural representation of magnitude of that which may be known in the West. [11] The researcher Lilya Kaganovsky, analysing the Soviet visual culture (especially cult films of the 1930s and 1940s), speaks of “heterosexual panic” in response to the concept of “homosexual panic” coined by Eve K. Segdwick: according Kaganovsky, Soviet cultural works largely reflects the idea that the relations of friendship, especially homosocial, particularly between men, is a moral value than heterosexual relationships. [12] In such a cosmology, heterosexual relationships could be perceived from within oneself and risk jeopardising the homosocial relationships of camaraderie and friendship, and the same social and national cohesion, thought to be based on collective values that conflicts with the value of exclusivity in the couple, “cozy comforts of home” [13].”

Mona. “Représenter le corps socialiste : l’exemple du peintre A. Deïneka (1899-1969),” on the Genre, politique et sexualités website, 16th April 2012 (translation by Google translate)



The Temptation of the male

An acknowledged desire for the male body, and the liberalisation of social conventions gave rise to some daring works from the mid 20th century onwards. In the United States, in spite of its puritan outlook since the Second World War, Paul Cadmus did not balk at depicting a pick up scene between men in a most unlikely Finistère. While the physical attraction of the body remained confined for a long time to the secrecy of private interiors, it was increasingly evident in public, in exclusively masculine social situations like communal showers or in the guise of a reconstructed Platonic Antiquity.

Eroticism is even presented quite crudely by Cocteau, whose influence on the young Warhol is undeniable. Beauty and seduction part company when the ideal transmitted by references to the past takes root in idiosyncratic practices and contemporary culture, as Hockney has expressed so accurately in his painting.


Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824) 'The Sleep of Endymion' 1791


Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson (French, 1767-1824)
The Sleep of Endymion
Oil on canvas
H. 90; W. 117.5cm
Montargis, Musée Girodet
© Cliché J. Faujour/musée Girodet, Montargis


Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953) 'Mercury' 2001


Pierre et Gilles (French, Pierre Commoy b. 1950 and Gilles Blanchard b. 1953)
© Pierre et Gilles



The Object of desire

For many years, the male body in art had been the subject of “objectification”. The unrestrained admiration for the perfection of the Greco-Roman nudes, a purely intellectual reconstruction of a body that had become the canon of beauty, meant that no interpretation of the nude was considered improper, even Winckelmann’s, with its powerful erotic charge.

Although Academic circles naturally encouraged the nude in great history paintings, certain subjects retained elements of sensuality and ambiguity. At the turn of the 19th century, discussion of the characteristics of the two sexes and their respective boundaries aroused interest in the bisexual amours of Jupiter and Apollo, while the formula of the young hero dying in the arms of his male lover was met with particular interest.

Girodet’s Endymion is depicted as an ephebe, his body caressed sensuously by the rays of the moon goddess, inspiring numerous homoerotic interpretations. With the Symbolists, as with Gustave Moreau, the difference between the sexes results in the downfall of a vulnerable man overcome by an inexorable and destructive force that is seen as feminine. However, at the other extreme, and in a less dramatic way, Hodler depicts the awakening of adolescent love between a self-obsessed young man and a girl who is captivated by his charm.

The sensuality and acknowledged eroticisation considered to be appropriate to the female body during the 19th century struck a serious blow against the traditional virility of the male nude: this blow was not fatal however, as the male nude was still very visible in the 20th century. Sexual liberation expressed, loud and clear, a feeling of voluptuousness and, often with few reservations, endowed the male body with a sexual charge. The model was usually identified, an assertive sign as a statement of the individuality: with Pierre and Gilles, where mythology and the contemporary portrait become one.

Text from the Musée d’Orsay website


Antonin Mercié. 'David' 1872


Antonin Mercié (French, 1845-1916)
© Musée d’Orsay, Paris


David LaChapelle. 'Eminem - About to Blow' 1999


David LaChapelle (American, b. 1963)
Eminem – About to Blow
Chromogenic Print


Giorgio de Chirico (1883-1966) 'Les bains mystérieux' (Mysterious Baths) c. 1934-36


Giorgio de Chirico (Italian, 1883-1966)
Les bains mystérieux (Mysterious Baths)
c. 1934-36
Tempera on card
39 x 31cm
© Musei Civici Fiorentini – Raccolta Alberto Della Ragione


Egon Schiele. 'Self-Portrait, Kneeling' 1910


Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890-1918)
Self-Portrait, Kneeling
© Leopold Museum / Manfred Thumberger


Henri-Camille-Danger.-Fléau!,-1901. Paris, musée d'Orsay-WEB


Henri Camille Danger (French, 1857-1937)
Fléau! (Scourge!)
© Musée d’Orsay, Paris


Koloman Moser. 'Le Printemps' (Spring) c. 1900


Koloman Moser (Austrian, 1868-1918)
Le Printemps (Spring)
c. 1900


Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) 'Grand Guerrier avec Jambe' 1893-1902


Antoine Bourdelle (French, 1861-1929)
Grand Guerrier avec Jambe


George Platt Lynes. 'Le Somnambule (The Sleepwalker)' 1935


George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Le Somnambule (The Sleepwalker)
Gelatin silver print
© Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg


Lutteurs d'Alexandre. 'Falguière' 1875


Lutteurs d’Alexandre (French, 1851-1900)
Oil on canvas
H. 240; W. 191cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski



From the 1870s, Alexandre Falguière worked simultaneously as a painter and sculptor. Wrestlers, which was his first large painting, caught the critics’ eye and won him a second-class medal at the Salon in 1875. The theme of modern wrestling, fashionable in the Romantic period, had enjoyed a revival in the 1850s. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the figure of the wrestler took on another meaning: his courage was held up as an example to develop the young citizens’ fighting spirit.

Critics were divided between those who scorned “the painting of a sculptor” and the larger group of those who recognised that Falguière had the talent of a true painter. The discussion also focused on the painting’s realism. Some commentators, who preferred the antique, slated the triviality of the theme, seeing nothing more than banal fairground wrestlers. Defenders of realism, on the other hand, enthused over the modernity of the subject and the lack of idealisation.

From 1876, Falguière nonetheless forsook modern subjects in his painting and turned to historical, mythological, literary or religious themes. If Castagnary is to be believed, the painting “was no more than a response to a dare by a painter faintly infatuated with himself and his talent.” Falguière perhaps produced The Wrestlers to prove that he was also a painter.

Text from the Musée d’Orsay website [Online] Cited 06/01/2021


Lucian Freud. 'Naked Man on Bed' 1989


Lucian Freud (British, 1922-2011)
Naked Man on Bed
Oil on canvas


Lucian Freud. 'David and Eli' 2004


Lucian Freud (British, 1922-2011)
David and Eli
Oil on canvas



Masculin / Masculin – La video on YouTube



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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96

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