You know how some people watch the Oscars just to see the clothes? Well I’m sort of like that when it comes to Victorian art. I’ve got to hand it to all those Pre-Raphaelite and Neo-Classical British painters. They knew how to do the gossamer flowing fabric, draped semi-nude, dreamy idealized female thing better than any other gang of artists. And the silky feminine fashion show almost makes up for the studied poses and vapid facial expressions.
I confess that I’m actually a little jealous, and let me explain why. While art models are expected to pose nude most of the time, clothed poses are popular too. I have done the “street clothes” thing a lot. We’re talking very basic, casual, tank top and jeans stuff. And it looks cool. But I’m never asked to do the flowing gown, mythological maiden, lady of Pompei thing. Not ever. And I’m disappointed! Hey, I like soft colorful fabrics. I like to play dress up. I’m a feminine girly-girl. Oh sure I have a potty-mouth like a drunken sailor, flash my boobs to strangers, and spit on sidewalks, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a lady, right? (Just kidding. I never spit 😉 )
Yes, even I have romantic knight-in-shining-armor fantasies. I have a helpless little lass inside me. I have wistful moods and enjoy running barefoot through grassy meadows. But do I ever get the opportunity to play those roles in my art modeling? Hell no. I enter a studio for work and it’s, “Hi Claudia. Get naked and strike a hot pose. And if we find a stitch of fabric on your person we’re kicking you out of here, you got it?”. Just my offering a pretty soft scarf as an accent gets me ejected from the premises. I guess I should take it as a compliment. But once – just once – I’d like to be idealized in the classical tradition, with elegant fabrics draped around my body, wind blowing through my hair, and my mind in pensive repose. Do they think I can’t pull it off?
A common complaint with the art from this school is its lack of imagination and psychological depth. Not much gravitas to be found, it’s true. But still you have to admit that visually they are quite fetching, and the clothes are just soooo pretty!!! Told you I was a girly-girl 🙂
This is Lord Leighton’s Flaming June:
Boreas, 1902, from John William Waterhouse:
This dress rocks! I’d pose in that any day. John Godward’s Athenais, 1908:
Waterhouse again, this is Windflowers: