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The Judgement of Paris The Swing Download and subscribe on iTunesStitcher or TuneIn. Art Matters is the podcast that brings together popular culture and art history, hosted by Ferren Gipson. There are many ways to approach the topic of eroticism in art, especially if you factor in how different cultures engage with sexuality and the body. Museums around the world are filled with images of nude figures, and if you look at the Wellcome Collection on Art UK, as one example, you can see a of images relating to sex, but erotic art is about more than just sex.
In our episode on hair in artwe discussed how even something as subtle as a woman wearing her hair down could have erotic connotations. What we may deem as erotic art has historically served a variety of purposes and is therefore reflected in different ways. Our personal viewpoints can also play a role in how we interpret works.
For example, so much of western art depicts images of the nude body — does that mean those works are erotic? Alyce says no — nudity isn't a prerequisite for erotic imagery and it can be reflected in subtle ways that distinguish between love and lust. A Blonde Woman about In a discussion of sexual, erotic or nude imagery, there's scope for confusion about when an image crosses over from being erotic to pornographic.
This comes down, in part, to intention. The erotic tends to be something that deals with morality, that deals with psychology, that deals with what's allowed,' says Alyce. It's clear that erotic art is about more than sexuality and is even about more than what's overtly apparent. Erotic stories from art twentieth century offers several examples of the relationship between social movements, historical events and artists' depictions of eroticism.
Some artists were inspired by their experiences in the First and Second World Wars and what Alyce refers to as the 'mechanisation' of the body for war purposes. Later, women artists engaged with eroticism as a way of expressing what it meant to be part of a generation of 'new women'. Venus and Cupids Throughout western art history, erotic subjects and imagery were often used as educational tools, encouraging high moral standards and cautioning the public not to overindulge in temptations of the flesh.
And to think about virtue, rather than just vice', says Alyce. Hylas and the Nymphs One can apply this moralistic interpretation to John William Waterhouse 's painting Hylas and the Nymphswhich shows Hylas from the Greek story of Jason and the Argonauts surrounded by seven nude water nymphs. In the painting, his preoccupation with their beauty has put him at risk of falling into the water and drowning. It's a direct connection between sexuality and potential peril. A Rake's Progress: 3 — The Orgy People are drunkenly strewn about the room and the women are covered with sores caused by syphilis.
It's one of eight paintings that functioned as a cautionary tale warning against overindulging in vices, from gambling to sex. This idea of morality in connection with sexuality pervades the history of art and it is because of this that there came to be a distinction between art and pornography.
In the nineteenth century, in particular, people sought to pin down clear denotations of 'eroticism' and 'pornography' to clarify what types of imagery and materials were socially acceptable. These kinds of discussions invariably lead to censorship, and the practice of Erotic stories from art erotic works extends back centuries, changing with the tastes and fashions of the period.
Censorship was even sometimes carried out posthumously, as was the case with some of the works of Michelangelo. Venus and Cupid with a Lute Player — The Dead Bird If erotic art isn't always explicitly sexual in appearance — with nudes and lusty gazes — you may be wondering how to recognise some of the more subtle erotic iconography. Images of Venus are easy to spot, with reclined female figures like those seen in the work of Titian and Manet.
The inclusion of a dog may symbolise fidelity, while a cat can represent passion. Even something like a painting of a young woman, or girl, with a dead bird or dying flowers, can connote the loss of innocence. Moving ahead to more recent art movements, the Surrealists were a group that believed strongly that eroticism played an essential role in art. The avant-garde movement began in earlys Paris and quickly spread across the world, lasting decades. They explored eroticism through engaging with imagery of the body, but also psychology.
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Dorothea Tanning takes yet another perspective in her Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by exploring the idea of burgeoning womanhood and being on the cusp of being a girl and becoming a woman, which includes sexual awakening amongst other bodily and psychological developments. It also taps into the psychology of dreams, which was a recurring theme in many Surrealist works. I went into this episode expecting to discuss what turns out to be a surface-level interpretation of erotic art. It's a varied and nuanced genre that evolves with new mediums and changing societal norms.
Listen to the episode via the player or links at the top of this story to get even more interesting details and examples of erotic works. Lovesick blues: a short history of love and pain in art. Why are artists infatuated with red hair?
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