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Voyeurism And Hygiene In Degas's Monotype Series "The Bathers"

1823 words - 7 pages

Natalie Samantha MurfinG14M2545"Using the above quotation, discuss Anthea Callan's notions of voyeurism and hygiene is Degas's monotype series The Bathers"AHVC 1Zamansele NseleI declare that this essay is my own wark and that all the sources I have used have been acknowledged by means of complete references._______________25/10/2014Nead states that to depict a body is to deal with "inescapable issues of representation" (Nead 1992). The depiction of nudes in art is considered by many to be a cornerstone of artistic practise - "The female body has become art" (Nead 1992: 19). Nudes are typically historically depicted in an austere and controlled manner, "contained within boundaries, conventions and poses" (Nead 1992: 11) so as to be considered 'appropriate' and without the associations of being "pornographic". Some works, however, break such representational conventions and thus, draw attention to the framework through which one views the nude. This essay aims to examine one of these bodies of work - namely Degas's monotype series The Bathers - and highlight the notions of hygiene and voyeurism present therein.Degas's series of pastel and monotype drawings, The Bathers, was first exhibited in its entirety in France in 1877 (Callan, 1995: 72). The works were considered so controversial that "they elicited the largest single body of criticism on the artist's work" (Callan, 1995: 71). The works, small in size, depicted nude prostitutes in then-contemporary France over a large number of monotype plates (Callan, 1995: 72). Though prostitutes had typically been used as nude models in painting before this body of work, the nature of Degas's depiction of them challenged most accepted conventions of "nude painting" - the women in the works were "crossing the boundaries […] of cultural convention" (Callan, 1995: 139).Part of the reason for the controversy surrounding The Bathers was due to its subject matter blurring the distinctions between "nude" - an artistic convention - and "naked" - a state of being often considered 'obscene'. Clark refers to being nude as being "clothed in art" (Nead 1992: 14), a state in which the female body is altered, made 'beautiful' and transformed from "the actual to the ideal" (Nead 1992:14). Degas's depiction of the prostitutes in the Bathers series is not idealised, but rather considered "thoroughly simian" (Callan, 1995: 87), relating to Clark's notion of the 'naked' as being "huddled" and grotesque (Nead 1992: 14). Clark further states that the depiction of the nude should fall into either the sphere of the "beautiful" or that of the "sublime" (Nead 1992: 22) and as Degas's bathing prostitutes - presented as "biological evidence of […] sexual perversion" (Callan, 1995: 87) - fall into neither category, some may consider their status as art to be in question. Through this shift in status, the works could be seen as undergoing the transition from "art" to "pornography". This shift may warrant certain schools of...

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