You Call That a Model?

Before my modeling gig at NYU on Thursday night, I journeyed over to Greenpoint, Brooklyn to visit my dear friend Daniel Maidman at his studio. And what a delightful visit it was! Daniel showed me his newest paintings which are marvelous, and we chatted for hours about the art community (and its limitless supply of gossip), our writing projects, and, of course, my romantic angst. Yes that’s how good a friend Daniel Maidman is. He’s willing to listen patiently to my hopeless moanings and ramblings about my current infatuation. Poor guy ๐Ÿ˜‰

But in the midst of all that, Daniel and I did compare notes about our writing and blogging, and he pointed something out to me that struck a chord. He observed that I haven’t written much on Museworthy lately about justย being an art model – the day-to-day experience of it and detailed firsthand accounts of the job – ย in quite a while. I have, but only sporadically. Not nearly to the extent that I used to. Daniel is right! I suppose I should steer this blog back into the “life of an artist’s model” groove. Heck, that’s how it was born.

Having said all that, I’d like to now share this utter bullshit painting by a 19th century artist named James Ferguson Weir. I should mention that the name of this ridiculousness is – get ready –ย His Favorite Model.ย Huh??ย I’m sorry, but what is this horseshit?

Excuse me????ย Dancing with her?? Get outta here!! ๐Ÿ˜†

Ok. I’m being a bit of a jerk. I know all about “lay figures”. They are artificial “models” – mannequins really- ย that have been used by artists for a very long time, particularly for use in displaying drapery and garments. The practice is not nearly as scandalous as I’m making it out to be. I’m just putting on a “feigned outrage” routine. My only two issues with this painting are 1) why would a painter make a painting OF the dummy model? 2) why is the dummy his “favorite”? Really? His favorite? Damn you Weir!

I actually have no background information about Weir or this particular painting. All I know is that I’m seriously offended!! <—— not really

But here’s the kicker. The dictionary definition of “lay figure” has two entries. The first reads as follows:

a jointed model of the human body, usually of wood, from which artists work in the absence of a living model

The second definition reads as follows:

a person of no importance, individuality, distinction, etc; nonentity

Exactly ๐Ÿ™‚

14 thoughts on “You Call That a Model?

  1. derek says:

    This is an interesting painting
    I like your honesty and no you are not being a jerk because you
    are being blunt and honest about what you see.
    I have enjoyed reading your blog this should be made into a book one of these days,
    Anyway my regards from Australia and from my Peta

    • artmodel says:

      Thanks derek! I goof around on this blog sometimes, as you’ve probably noticed ๐Ÿ˜†

      I appreciate your loyal readership. Returning regards to you and Peta down under!


  2. Claudia! It was such a pleasure having you over, and I love hearing *whatever* is on your mind – you’re such a good storyteller. I’ll look forward to more tales of modeling over here, and I’ll see you on Monday…

    Cesar Santos, incidentally, recently came into temporary possession of Annigoni’s mannequin, and he made a few paintings of it, then went right back to painting humans.

  3. violinhunter says:

    Though I would not purchase this piece, I do like it. It might be trying to say something – they both look so stiff. AND, maybe this model is all he could afford. I find it amusing more than anything. Being a composer, arranger, studio musician, classical violinist, and amateur painter, I do not take art seriously at all (with very rare exceptions.)

    • artmodel says:


      The painting is, as you call it, amusing. As a professional artist’s model I couldn’t resist showing it and having a little fun. Like I wrote in the post, the use of dummies has a long history among artists. They serve a purpose but can never substitute for the real thing.

      Thanks for your comments!


      • violinhunter says:

        Claudia, Dummies could NEVER substitute for live models. May that never be so. Before reading your post, I was not even aware of such a practice. It’s like going to Broadway to listen to two electronic synthesizers instead of a live orchestra. I think that at the heart of human life is communication. Communication with a machine – or a wooden doll – is not fulfilling and definitely not gratifying. A machine cannot love nor can it be generous or intense or sad or angry or creative. Life can’t be beat. May we always make it pleasant and enjoyable. AND, yes, you should write more about your everyday life as a model. ๐Ÿ™‚ (You are so courteous and professional Claudia. I want you to know I appreciate and admire that.)

  4. Bill MacDonald says:

    Oh, I don’t know — I think she’s kind of cute ๐Ÿ™‚

    Seriously, though, I’ve seen works by many artists that dehumanize the figure. I have always wondered why they took the time and money to work from live models when they weren’t interested in the human dimension that the model brought to the studio. It just seems. . . irrational.

    • artmodel says:


      Yes it does seem irrational. I’ve been very lucky that the overwhelming majority of artists I’ve worked with are committed to capturing the “life” quality of the life model. Your drawings also demonstrate it beautifully.

      Thanks for your comments!


  5. Ron says:

    I suppose he might feel that there are some advantages to working with one of those wooden models. You don’t have to pay them, they are available whenever you want, they never cancel or show up late and they complain about a pose being uncomfortable. You could always tie strings to them and put on a puppet show.

    On the other hand they tend to be a little stiff. Just watch out if any magical crickets show up. You might end up with a real life competitor.

    • artmodel says:


      Yes, the wooden models provide all those things you listed. They are also inanimate objects. That’s a big drawback!

      I, for one, am not threatened by those darn dummies ๐Ÿ˜†

      Thanks for your comments!


  6. Andrew says:

    Claudia, here’s a film that may give you a bit more empathy for our wooden colleagues.

    • artmodel says:

      Andrew, OH MY GOD! I’m practically crying from that!! What a little cutie. The ending was so sad! The video was really effective and well done. I feel lousy now having mocked the mannequins!

      Thanks for posting it. You always share great stuff.


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