A deviation: Art has all the nudes you need

On Wednesday I knew I’d have some time to kill before heading out to Hawthorn to watch Colossal (which is quite the take on the monster movie, if you’re interested!) so I decided to stop by the National Gallery of Victoria. Having read a little about it when it opened at the end of March, I wanted to check out their new free (don’t worry, this ain’t #SponCon) exhibition Love: Art of Emotion 1400-1800.

Truth be told, I’m not really an ‘art’ person. I’m more of a music/words/theatre type, but I don’t mind the occasional gallery visit. I’m very much looking forward to their Van Gogh exhibition which starts in late April, but I’m fairly awful at appreciating contemporary art. The Love exhibition is a bit of an odd bunch. It mostly consists of works from the Gallery’s existing collection, somewhat loosely connected to the idea of love. I knew a few pieces from the promotional material, but my main thought process was that if I was bringing together some early modern European pieces around a universal theme, I would do what I could to relate it to present day. And that made me suspect I could probably tie in some of the artworks on display to my writing on love, dating, and Tinder.

Turns out there’s a reason I’m not running a gallery. However, I found no shortage of amusement, mostly in the ‘Anticipation’ section. This section revolves around flirtation, seduction and danger. In the section I learned that the language of a fan could be just as direct as a right-swipe, mansplaining is found to be the truth universal, and everyone has always loved a nude.

My apologies for the photo quality – they were snapped on my phone, and the gallery keeps the light quite low. Also I’ve mined the labels as much as possible post-visit – there may be some wonkiness with translations or attributions.

Selfies are nothing new

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  1. Anthony van Dyck, Self-portrait, c. 1645
  2. Elizabeth Louise Vigée le Brun, The artist at work, 1830

Feeling a bit embarrassed about spending half an hour taking photos at slightly different angles to find the perfect profile photo? Some people like to think we have reached the depths of vanity with our selfie culture, but honestly, how long would it take to paint a self-portrait? Consider how many hours you would spend obsessing over the curve of your shoulder. Or whether you would look better in a diaphanous gown of blue or pink.
Who’s vain now?

Well, actually…

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  1. Cornelis Bega, The young hostess, 1650-54
  2. François Boucher, The music lesson, c. 1745
  3. Peter Paul Rubens, The Garden of Love, mid 17th Century
  4. François Boucher, The enjoyable lesson, 1748

Large parts of this exhibition was just representations of bored women on terrible dates – or just trying to do their job, hey.

I’m willing to admit that maybe it was just François Boucher who was fixated on women not being able to play a goddamn flute with their own hands thankyouverymuch, but golly, the ennui of these women. Every one of these men sounded like such a promisingly cute geek in their profile, and then gave you an 45-minute spiel on Star Wars lore when you confused Darth Malgus for Darth Nihilus in passing.

No one can make you a third wheel unless you let them

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Unknown, The Cradle of Love, c. 1816

Odd one out?
It’s time to get creative, and think of a group activity where no-one will notice you’re a little extraneous to their needs. Bowling is good, theme park visits less so. And everyone loves dancing – until a slow song comes on.

Pls send nudes
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Unknown (Deruta manufacturer), Dish, 1520-1530

A large part of what I learned touring this exhibition was that artists have long loved using ancient mythology as an excuse to paint some tits. This one’s a little different.
The label for this item discussed the production of pottery to celebrate marriages and romantic unions, sometimes forming part of the dowry (the markers on this particularly item doesn’t entirely explain the context of it’s creation). The exposure of the breast in this item is unusual, but it’s a fun idea to make him wait for nudes until he puts a ring on it.
(Don’t mess around with your digital security, ladies. For trusted folks only)

Never date a musician
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Jacques André Portail, Young man seated, playing a lute, 18th century

They’re moody and mysterious, sitting around on rocks and throwing you cheeky looks,  until they ruin the mood by playing Wonderwall at your best friend’s birthday party. And then there’s the constant fear of the Taylor Swift treatment when you break up.

I didn’t tend to take many photos of the devotional section of this exhibition, as I’m not really one for making fun of religion – particularly not on Easter weekend. This is but a small taster of the over 200 works on display for free in this collection at the NGV.
I hope you enjoyed this slight deviation, while I continue to sort through my biggest sample yet. I collected 13 data points on 200 subjects, not considering that I didn’t necessarily have the skills to mine that data particularly well as yet. But I will be back – with charts!

Published by

Katie Sparkes

A Romantic Realist

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