Our discussion of photographic portraits at the St. Louis Art Museum on Friday, especially about the theme of photographers taking nude portraits of their wives, reminded me of an exhibit we saw in June at the Musée d’Orsay called Confusion of Genre. I wrote a little about it when describing our second full day on our own in Paris. The Musée d’Orsay doesn’t make permanent web pages for their photo exhibits in the same way as they do for their other art exhibits (I’m getting the impression that they aren’t fully on board with the notion of photography as art), but here is a French blog post that displays the photograph that was on the poster for the show.

photo of the Musée d'Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay

As I recall, the Musée d’Orsay exhibit was of very early photographic nude portraits — the last in the exhibit was one of the Alfred Stieglitz photos of Georgia O’Keeffe. I interpreted the exhibit as looking at where art ends and pornography begins and how photography opened up the question in more direct ways than earlier painted artworks.  And, I think there was a bit of an examination about whether some of these early photographers were trying to pull the wool over the eyes of those who might censor their works by declaring it to be art. Of course, all of this could be my puritanical American view of things and it might have been a quite different confusion of genre that the exhibit was attempting to address.

All of this reminded me of a favorite page in Lucy Knisley’s illustrated Paris travel memoir, French Milk, the one where she stands in front of a wall of paintings of naked women with the thought balloon: “I think from now on, I’m only going to make art involving naked men.” There were a few naked men in the Confusion of Genre exhibit, but I got the impression that they were taken, in part, because these men happened to be the objects of affection for the male photographers (the French being more open about such things much earlier in history).

photo of Eiffel tower with words Dreaming of FranceThis is my Dreaming of France post this week. It’s amazing how many things, these days, can prompt a memory, thought, or dream about France. Check out An Accidental Blog for more French-themed posts.

Signature of Joy Weese Moll


Nudes in France — 7 Comments

  1. Hi Joy, thank you for visiting my page and leaving a comment. I really really want to see Alsace soon because of those nice postcards. I have a few more Alsace postcards that I’m gonna share soon for ‘Dreaming About France’.

    Your post for this blog hop is thought-provoking. I never really had a clear stance about nudity on art. It’s hard for me to draw the line between art and pornography. Perhaps if it’s illustrated the way they did before, wide-hipped chubby females, that’s still art. However, if it’s the slim and photo-shopped version, it’s pornography for me…

    I’m also curious as to why there are less artworks with nude men compared to nude women. Anyhow… I saw a film about Georgia O’Keeffe before, I never knew she posed nude, too!

    Two weeks ago, I visited a small artwork exhibition called Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris, showcasing artworks by Picasso, Renoir, Monet… It was a nice experience to witness these artworks from Europe for real! They’ll have a bigger installation in Singapore in 2015 and I’d definitely go back to glimpse on more artworks. Here’s the link if you wanna check when you have the time: http://www.pinacotheque.com.sg/art-collecting

    This post of yours gave me idea on what to share when I post for next week’s ‘Dreaming of France’ I make sure I credit you on my entry 😉

    So long for now,

  2. Pingback: Sunday Salon — November 24 | Joy's Book Blog

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