I may seem obsessed with Schiele
’s and Freud
’s sexually explicit poses. Really it’s a case of being fascinated by the issues they throw up. In this photo by Aussie Cyril
(from our second M50
session yesterday) I’m in a pose I copied from a Lucian Freud painting
. I’ve over-photoshopped it, trying to make it look textured like the painting. Art critic William Boyd
associates the two artists (he refers to ‘the disturbing power of … a Lucian Freud
’) in an article primarily about the ‘sexual frankness’ of the chronologically much earlier Egon Schiele
, whose notorious explicit nude studies
were a ‘visceral shock to pre-First World War viewers’. Way ahead of his time, and condemned by many as obscene, the young Schiele
endeavoured to “strip away the lies and surface pretences” of social hypocrisy – the repressive values and attitudes that prevailed at the beginning of the 20th century in Vienna and Europe-wide. Even today, many would be deeply shocked if I, as a life model, copied certain of Schiele’s
famous poses. I can’t think of a single artist acquaintance who would be blasé about drawing me masturbating. Is this a case of similar “repressive values and attitudes” prevailing even nowadays?
Sunday. Two days since the end of exam week. End of semester. The campus is already eerily quiet, the students having left to join the national hordes flocking home for Spring Festival. So – at last – a chance for us to talk?
It is end-of-January freezing and I am under my duvet, re-reading William Boyd’s Guardian article
about Schiele and erotica. I turn to Bel
. ‘Does copying Egon Schiele
’s and Lucian Freud
’s poses make me a wannabe porn-star?’
looks up from marking exam papers in her bed. ‘No. Why should it? Why should the fact that their paintings are sexually charged automatically associate them with porn? I mean, some of their really famous ones are quite grotesque
, not at all beautiful.’
‘Yes – that’s precisely why I like them. I like edgy. I like disturbing. It’s sex but it’s not porn.’
yawns, stretches, seems relaxed. No frowning or agitation. Great!
I warm to my theme. ‘Schiele is sex
. That’s why every student in every college class I’ve ever modelled for is a Schiele devotee. He only drew the body-parts he was into. Never mind the head or the feet, straight to the genitals.’
‘The only place masturbation’s permissible in a school is in the Schiele catalogue
in the art room.’ Ping!
‘Oops, excuse me – a text.’
instantly puts her head back into her marking. Darn. I love that we’re chatting about Art.
I take a look. ‘Poo. Cyril
. He wants to “continue our discussion of Picasso
doesn’t look up. ‘Never stops asking you for dates, these days. You should go. Why not get a free meal out?’
‘For heaven’s sake, Bel
, I don’t want to socialise with Cyril
Bel raises her eyes from the exam papers, looks quizzically at me.
‘Quite frankly I’d rather discuss Picasso
. I’d rather discuss anything
‘Go on, then,’ she sits back – ‘I’m bored of this.’
‘Oh! right – well: Cyril
’s in total agreement with that feminist mad-woman Karen Kleinfelder
who says Picasso’s late works
are about male sexual power over women. You know. The fantasy of possession of the model. But there’s this other academic Marie-Laure Bernadac,
who says those works are just – wait, let me quote: “a later-life exploration of the female realm.” As in, not exploitative at all.’
‘Or at least, not that specifically,’ Bel
agrees. ‘And anyway, I always wonder – what’s actually wrong
with artworks that show a power relationship – a sexual relationship – between male and female?’
question! Why is Kleinfelder
so derangedly angry with Picasso
for relating to women sexually?’
shrugs. ‘I’ve never actually understood why artists having sex with models is a problem.’
‘Me neither. I mean, which way is the exploitation, in the end? Isn’t there a tradition of on-the-face-of-it ‘subordinate’ female secretaries exploiting their rich bosses for their own ends, by manipulating them with sex?’ I get out of bed. ‘Cuppa tea?’ Heading for the kitchen, I call – ‘Traditionally, surely most artists’ models would have been expecting it to get sexual?’
I don’t hear a response.
I come back from switching the kettle on – ‘I mean, Schiele’s so-called muse Wally Neuzil
: she was integral to his life. His primary relationship. Can’t we assume it was mutually beneficial? Why insist on calling it exploitation?’
‘Like, I’m sure Lee Miller
fully intended her relationship with Man Ray
to be sexual.’
‘Well of course, she’s a person who’d only have sex if she wanted to…’ Bel
ponders for a moment, ‘though anyway she was working more with photographers than artists. I think there might be more likelihood of sex between photographer and model than artist and model, considering that with photography there’s much more one-to-one work.’
‘I think that’s definitely the case. Like, you know Charis Wilson
, Edward Weston
’s ‘muse’ who became his second wife? She expected sex with him from the outset. It was Charis who brought it about. Let me get Cyril
’s book…’ I scoot to fetch it from the living room.
Maybe we’ll go on being like this from now on? Maybe I could stay on with Bel
Should I get into her bed?
I dive back into my own bed with the book
. ‘It says here that the very first time Charis modelled for Edward there was a sexual tension that “had to be diffused with breathless conversation”
– and the second session, they had full-blown sex which she initiated herself – because he was apparently “shy” – by giving him a “very compelling look”
. And he goes, “I felt a response…”
We both guffaw. ‘“Eyes don’t lie and she wore no mask… At last she lay there below me waiting, holding my eyes with hers.”’
Breaking off, I quip cheerfully, ‘Bel
– is there anything we don’t
‘That all men are bastards? Coz you seem very well-disposed towards Cyril
Why this sudden barb out of nowhere?
I do another guffaw, a bit over-hearty. ‘Obviously
all men are bastards. And Cyril
’s in the sub-category “fat bastards”. Speaking of which, listen to this: throughout Weston’s affair
he also kept on a long-suffering and faithful wife in the background who was bringing up his four sons. Quote: “Poor Flora… I must try to be tender to her, it is not easy to thrust aside such a great love as she offers me”.’
We both go, ‘Bastard!’
WRITE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS PAGE HERE
To subscribe leave your email address
[email-subscribers namefield=”YES” desc=”” group=”Public”]
Please subscribe to my serial (it’s free)