Category: art history blog

Study of the portrait, and the finished ‘Por…

Study of the portrait, and the finished ‘Portrait of Madame X’, 1884, by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925).

The Scandalous Portrait of Madame X

The Scandalous Portrait of Madame X

The famous ‘Portrait of Madame X’, painted by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), is a gorgeous work of art. However, when it was displayed at the Paris Salon in 1884, it became highly controversial.

At the time, Sargent used the beautiful socialite, Madame Pierre Gautreau (1859-1915), as his model. He hoped this would garner more attention to his career. The original work was slightly different, where he “emphasized her daring personal style” by allowing a strap on her gown to slip off her shoulder. When the work was revealed, it caused an uproar. It was the model’s mother who was particularly infuriated, seeing her daughter’s portrait painted in such a provocative way. The portrait received more anger than admiration, leading to Sargent re-painting the strap and re-named it ‘Madame X’ for more mystery and modesty.

While the work and Sargent’s reputation led him to leave France, it also boosted his fame internationally. He was in hot demand for commissioned work after moving to London.

On the left, there is a copy of the original work is on display in the Tate, in Britain. The right shows how Sargent censored the portrait.

The Three Races, 1859, by Francisco Laso (1823…

The Three Races, 1859, by Francisco Laso (1823-1869)

Portrait of Senhime, 17th century

Portrait of Senhime, 17th century

Portrait of Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, Dauphine …

Portrait of Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, Dauphine of France, 1749, by Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789)

Butterflies, 1904, by Fujishima Takeji (1867-1…

Butterflies, 1904, by Fujishima Takeji (1867-1943)

Young Woman in an Interior, 1870, by Auguste T…

Young Woman in an Interior, 1870, by Auguste Toulmouche (1829-1890)

The Orchid, 20th century, by Fujishima Takeji …

The Orchid, 20th century, by Fujishima Takeji (1867-1943)

The Exquisite Corpse

Some might have played this creative game before. This game was heavily used by those in the Surrealism art movement, and could have some fun results. Numerous people are needed to play. Each person contributes an image (drawing or collage) and then folds their piece so that the next person has no idea what has been drawn. In the end, a (usually bizarre) composite figure is created.

“Three (or more) of you sit down around a table. Each one of you, hiding from the others, draws on a sheet the upper part of a body, or the attributes able to take its place. Pass on to your neighbor on the left this sheet, folded so as to conceal the drawing, but for three or four of its lines passing beyond the fold. Meanwhile, you get from your neighbor on the right another sheet prepared in the same way (previously folded perpendicular to the axis of the body to be realized)…In the event that colors are used, it is a requirement to pass, along with the sheet, the colors, limited to the number of those used.”

Below, Nude, 1927, “Cadavre Exquis” with Yves Tanguy, Joan Miró, Max Morise, Man Ray, is a perfect example of this game.

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“Surrealist artists played a collaborative, chance-based parlor game, typically involving four players, called Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite Corpse). Each participant would draw an image (or, on some occasions, paste an image down) on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal their contribution, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution.

Taking turns adding onto each other’s drawings and collages resulted in fantastic composite figures, such as Nude by Yves Tanguy, Joan Miró, Max Morise, and Man Ray. The resulting nude female figure combines a humorous and absurd array of features—from leaf ears to snowshoe feet. For the Surrealists, Exquisite Corpse was a perfect parlor game, involving elements of unpredictability, chance, unseen elements, and group collaboration—all in service of disrupting the waking mind’s penchant for order.”

Beauty? What is that? – Beauty in itself is no…

Beauty? What is that? – Beauty in itself is nothing.