Saturday, July 22, 2006

L'Origine du Monde

My fellow artist friend Lulu Stanley snapped this on her trip to Paris last month: Here I am, standing in front of Gustave Courbet's infamous piece in the Musee d'Orsay, doing what artists call "research" (yeah, I know...sounds like a crock, right? but it's true).

It was fun to stay and watch people's reactions to this painting, which has the power to shock even over a hundred years later (it was painted in 1866). You can only imagine the uproar when a group of pre-adolescent French school children came through. Interestingly, the girls ran away screaming almost immediately, whereas the boys sort of hovered, laughing and making sounds of disgust and raucous comments, but not looking away either (sound familiar?).

Even more interesting to watch were the American tourists: middle-aged couples who tittered and flushed almost as much as the pre-adolescents. The French adults didn't seem to be nearly as fazed.

Of course, this was a very small, random sampling. But nevertheless, I am tempted to draw some conclusions. Could it be that the French are less uptight about sexuality as adults because they see more of it when they are young, and in very public, culturally recognized places like the Musee d'Orsay? Growing up in Puritan Boston, the only time I ever saw this kind of unabashed sexuality was when I got lost and strayed into the peep-show-riddled "combat zone," definitely NOT a destination for school field trips (not intentionally, anyway).

I don't know, it's far too hot right now to get into a major analysis of this subject. But I do like this painting, and I like the Musee d'Orsay, regardless of how badly lit most of the paintings on the first floor are, and in spite of the fact that they have hung the best Vuillard portraits in the most insultingly cramped spaces... blah blah blah...

1 Comments:

Anonymous kimba said...

I love that painting. I remember seeing it last year, and I was shocked myself when I came upon it. Shocked in a good way - like I had forgotten that it was there and then there it was. And that yes, it is a painting that is a hundred years old, but it still looks fresh and new. I feel the same way about that painting with the sleeping couple in bed, and the one where the workers are planing the hardwood floor.

I love the Musee d'Orsay. Except I don't love it when it is crowded, full of people who don't know what they are looking at. But I love the building and getting lost in the drawings and paintings.

6:37 PM  

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