Well, here’s what I have so far for my research paper. This week was spent mostly working on this, with a few fun studio moments. I’ll post that update on Sunday. For now, here is what I have so far, working towards my final paper for this year…
2-3 practitioners, ½ page each, focus on 1-2 works per artist
When it comes to researching artists and the relationships they have with their models, no one comes up more than Pablo Picasso. He had tumultuous affairs, marriages, and unions with almost all his female models. His relationship with surrealist artist Dora Maar led to some of his most iconic paintings, including Dora Maar au Chat. What initially drew me to this was the inclusion of the cat, if I’m perfectly honest, but then I really paid attention to the way he depicted Dora. There are so many sharp angles, definite lines that dismantle her body, reconstructing her broken form. Even the color on her arms is set in separate, unblended sections, further sectioning her to pieces. The only place on her we see a softening is in the color on her rearranged face. The fauve tendencies here are what kept me interested in this piece, where her face feels less hostile than her body. She’s so large in an imposing chair, filling the space of the room floor to ceiling, side to side. He painted her as a person who filled the space of a room which may seem flattering, but her claw-like fingernails are a clue to her fierceness. I also found it interesting that the cat suffers no fragmentation, just basic flattening and scale reduction. This kitten doesn’t seem to have hurt Picasso as much as Maar. I can’t decide if he truly felt he needed to dismantle his models both figuratively and literally to create such resonant work, but nearly all his models who had romantic or sexual relationships with him were somewhat broken when they were parted from him.
With few exceptions, he romanced all of his models, or at least attempted to do so. Sylvette David was one of those few women who never succumbed to the artist’s charms, or perhaps he didn’t pursue her as fervently as his other models. His painting, Sylvette, 1954, has many of the same sharp lines and bold colors as Dora Maar au Chat but without the underlying anger. There is some fragmentation happening in the body, less in the face, and some changes in natural scale; the abstractions seem less violent. We see Sylvette seated in profile, with her trademark ponytail, done in black and white with splashes of cerulean, navy, and green on her figure. I wonder if Picasso saw Sylvette as more or less of a person, because he did not have a romantic relationship with her, and how that seems to shine through in his works with her. The background, which is a flat wall with hints of yellow and teal, doesn’t feel as much like a cage as the room in which he put Dora Maar. I rarely do much with the background, but I think I may have to give it more attention as to how it can frame my model and our own relationships.
The first thing I notice when looking at Mary D. Garrard 1977 is the intense gaze of the sitter, with a curious expression, as if they are waiting on an answer to a question just asked. Neel was able to capture a level of emotion over the course of 4 sittings with Garrard, who commissioned the portrait with her mother. Garrard recounts how Neel insisted on painting her just as she was when she walked into the studio. It was a choice she made, as the artist, on how best to capture the persona of Garrard on a canvas. The pose, the androgyny, the flattening of color are all characteristics familiar in Neel’s portraits, as is the striped chair seen in many works. Neel chose to paint her model with all of her cold weather gear on, and I wonder if it offers protection from the cold (like I have done with Anna) or protection from the viewer? If it wasn’t cold in her studio, how uncomfortable did the make Garrard? I find myself concerned with the physical well-being of my models but and this makes me cringe a bit. Maybe what Neel wanted? I enjoy the varying levels of “completion” in this portrait, with the more finished parts drawing the eye, relaying their importance over the less detailed areas.
I also see the same treatment in her piece Nancy Selvage, but in greater severity. We see the model outlined in solid black strokes, giving shape to a body that isn’t quite filled in with color. In fact, her body, arms and hands are barely gestures, no detail or form really given. In comparison with the strong detail and focus on Garrard’s hands, Selvage’s seem to melt off her arms like candle wax. They both have an intense gaze, looking back at the viewer, but Selvage seems more melancholy, less present in the moment than Garrard. Did that contribute to the level of “finished” Neel created? Did the relationship present itself in these images? I love the use of color in each work, the subtle elements of fauvism in the yellow patch on a hand or the plum red shadow under and eye. I want to bring Neel’s skill at capturing emotion into my work, and her ability to see when a work was complete, even if it isn’t “finished.”
· Altfest, Ellen. “The Relationship Between Artist and Model,” Irish Museum of Modern Art Blog, 16 Aug. 2017, https://immablog.org/2017/08/16/the-relationship-between-artist-and-model-a-blog-by-renowned-american-painter-ellen-altfest/. Accessed Jan. 2019.
o In this blog post, Ellen Altfest refers to many of the model/artist relationship issues or questions that arise when talking about the subject. She brings up how common it was (or is) for male artists to sleep with their models, which can cause a serious shift in the relationship or end it altogether. Altfest brings up how much power the model has over the artist, because they have to be a willing participant in the process. They always have the power to quit, to leave, to abandon. The artist can be dependent on their presence, their body, even their mood for the piece to come to fruition. In those instances, they have the upper hand in deciding when to work.
· Borzello, Frances. Seeing Ourselves: Womens Self-Portraits. Thames & Hudson, 2018.
o I have been slowly working my way through this book since the beginning of the school year. Borzello share insight into the practice of self portraits and what that has meant, what they were allowed to mean, over the ages. Being able to describe ourselves, to reveal our own truths in our own ways and languages, both as a woman and as an artist, is incredibly powerful. To do so in a self portrait is an intimate, telling way to communicate visually. We see the history of the female artist alongside the history of those artists painting themselves, the slow and steady progression to being taken seriously as artists and humans.
· Garrard, Mary D. “Alice Neel and Me.” Woman's Art Journal, vol. 27, no. 2, 2006, pp. 3–7. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20358083.
o The model is able to give us her side of the story, from when she posed for a portrait by Alice Neel in 1977. This has great insight to Neel’s studio practices, her interactions with her models, the levels of tension in their sessions. Garrard offers a keen take on the proclivities of the artist, the way she was able to pull out truths from her models to embed in the paint, the way she liked to catch them off guard. The author also explores how Neel redefined feminism, being a female artist, and the way we see nude portraiture, where women were allowed to be nude without being solely objects for the male gaze.
· Glueck, Grace. “Artist and Model: Why the Tradition Endures.” The New York Times Archives, 8 June 1986, https://www.nytimes.com/1986/06/08/arts/artist-and-model-why-the-tradition-endures.html. Accessed Jan. 2019.
o A summary on the transition from partner/lover models to professional models and the evolving relationships that artists create and maintain with the models. Some artists completely remove the personal element, instead focusing purely on the form presented, preserving a “professional distance,” while some still rely on friends and family, spouses, to model. Most of these still see their models as separate, not participating, even though they are present in the process of creation. Few see their models as “collaborators” but that is precisely part of what I am doing in my studio. Collaborating with my models to create works that more fully embody them as a person, captured in a work of art.
· Gordon, Mary. “The Artist's Model.” The Yale Review, 21 Dec. 2017, 106: 160-169. https://doi-org.plymouth.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/yrev.13325. Accessed Feb 2019.
o This is a narrative take on the relationships between the artist and model, but also the model and the artist’s significant others. These specific pages detail the relationship between two artists, Clara and Dan, and Clara’s model, Marya, who ends the marriage of the former. Clara initially takes Marya in as a model and sort of apprentice, but her much younger husband eventually leaves Clara to be with her model. Clara eventually asks Marya to finish posing for her, and the dynamic is completely different from their previous sessions. The resulting painting shows the anger and hurt that Clara felt, embodying the negative feelings she now feels for her model. It demonstrates how the artist can make visible emotions, and how they can manipulate the medium to make an image that is both representational of an individual while at the same time creating a foreign individual.
· Hudson, Mark. “Pablo Picasso: Women are Either Goddesses or Doormats.” The Telegraph, 8 April 2016. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/artists/pablo-picasso-women-are-either-goddesses-or-doormats/. Accessed Feb. 2019.
o Let’s just reiterate how much of a horrible man Picasso was to women. This article does discuss the way the women in his life, his models and muses, had an affect on how he painted and the styles he progressed through. It gives a bit of history for each of his models that were also his lovers or wives, but it doesn’t mention any of the other models, either non-sexual/romantic partners, or men. The article also discusses the mental health of his models, after their relationship had ended, and it’s not a comforting idea that many of his models struggled with depression, isolation, or other issues after parting company with the artist.
· Kleinfelder, Karen L, and Pablo Picasso. The Artist, His Model, Her Image, His Gaze: Picasso’s Pursuit of the Model. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. Print.
o Book just arrived. The author explores the work of the artist in his later life and career; how the artist probed the “possibilities of representation” within the dynamics of the relationship of the artist, the model, and the work. I have yet to read this as I just received it in the mail.
· Lord, James. A Giacometti Portrait (Classic Reprint). Noonday Press, 1997.
o I love the inside look, so rarely shared, of a model’s perspective of the relationship between artist and model, while the work is being created. I feel that this gives the reader a more humanized view of Giacometti, who at his time was already a celebrated artist, but still doubted his craft and talent. He actively sought the opinion of Lord, asking him often whether or not he should continue the portrait. This also made me feel exponentially better about imposter’s syndrome and hating my own work at varying stages of progression. We see how dedicated both the artist and the model were to the final piece, and to the friendship cultivated further in their time together for the work.
· Miller, J. David & Gilbert J. Rose (2005) “Artist and Model: Psychoanalytic Perspectives.” The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 86:2, 539-541, DOI: 10.1516/PFVP-AF06-F9AH-PMRJ. Accessed Jan. 2019.
o Basically, Picasso was a dick. No, really. This article is the recounting of a panel discussion on the relationships artists have with their models, and not just the humans in front of them but the objects and the mental models as well. Harold and Elsa Blum bring up how Picasso painted his “’family’ of friends” into his work, but that he also superimposed his own symbolic costuming, creating self portraits of the figures included in Family of Saltimbanques. Not only does he remove their essence in this way, leaving only their resemblance, but he uses other elements to reinforce his superiority in the group, reminding the viewer (or himself, or them?) that he is the most important element to the dynamic. Then the panelists discuss the essence drain of Francis Bacon’s model and lover George Dyer, who killed himself when Bacon was finished with their relationship. It was inferred that Bacon took everything from him, in a very unbalanced union, to pour into his work.
· Oakley, Howard. “It Takes Two: The Model and the Artist.” The Eclectic Light Company, 20 Jan. 2018, https://eclecticlight.co/2018/01/20/it-takes-two-the-model-and-the-artist/. Accessed Jan. 2019.
o This article reviews the fact that very often little was known about a model, even though their face/body/likeness was preserved in the work of the artist. It refers back to a partnership needed in the creation of a work of art, between the model and the artist, but when completed the artist rarely credits the model. The partnership can extend beyond the studio into personal life via friendship, romantic relations, or acquaintanceship. It can be the beginning of these relationships, a part of them or the ending. The artists listed were rarely painting the model themselves but were using the models as placeholders for other persona or character in the work. It made me question how that affects the final outcome; painting a person or applying a character to their framework?
· Postle, Martin. The Artists Model from Etty to Spencer. M. Holberton, 1999.
o Book ordered, waiting on arrival.
· Rose, G. J. (2004). “Aesthetic ambiguity revisited via the artist-model pair and neuroscience.” Psychoanalytic Psychology, 21(3), 417-427. doi:http://dx.doi.org.plymouth.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/0736-97188.8.131.527. Accessed Jan. 2019.
o This writing was helpful in that it analyzes the works of multiple artists and painters, including painting depicted in film, and the relationships with the models and how that then shaped the artwork. The recurring references to a sexual tension between artist and model are tiring. NOT EVERY ARTIST WANTS TO SLEEP WITH THEIR MODEL. I will concede that there is some level of attraction (something made me want to paint them) but it doesn’t always have to come back to sex.
· Sooke, Alastair. “Culture - Sylvette David: The Woman Who Inspired Picasso.” BBC News, BBC, 21 Oct. 2014, www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140320-im-like-the-mona-lisa.
o Sooke reviews the artwork, the critiques, and the gossip surrounding Picasso’s relationship with Sylvette David. I am especially drawn to his work of Sylvette, I believe because the model is more recognizable, according to Christoph Grunenberg, possibly, “…because he didn’t conquer her, he needed to conquer her on canvas and on paper and in sculpture.” Some critics write off the work from this era as less emotional, but I like the idea that Picasso could still create beautiful, moving work, without having to put his penis in the model, without destroying another human being.
· Winther, Barbara. “The Artist and His Model: The Crossing Paths of Maynard Dixon and George Whitewing.” The Western Historical Quarterly, 2018, Vol. 49(3), pp.335-342. Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/whq/why079. Accessed Jan. 2019.
o This article is an interesting insight into the sometimes chaotic or sporadic relationships between artist and model. While Dixon and Whitewing began as strangers, they soon developed a friendship and a mutual respect and trust. It went so far as Dixon consulting with Whitewing about the design and concepts for the work for which he was modeling. When they reconnected after many years apart, they continued both their artistic relationship and their friendship, which resulted in various other projects. I think the poem, Interpreter, is very representative of the artist/model relationship. The artist is interpreting a living movment, an idea, and capturing it, where as the model is doing their best to interpret the intent, the drive or need of the artist, to feed it back to them.
· What are my questions?
o How does the relationship between the model and the artist affect the outcome of the artwork? Is there a difference when there is a solid relationship vs. a stranger?
o How much of the artist is present in each portrait they paint? Can an artist give more control to the model, to create work that is more collaboration, with a limited personal filter from the artist?
· Why did I want to explore this idea?
o I work often with self-portraits. Painting myself helps me to articulate my emotional state, my thoughts, and my ideas. I can explore my relationship with myself.
§ Are all portraits somehow also a self-portrait? Do we capture ourselves in the gaze of the model, in the pose or setting, or in the application of mediums? Does the relationship between artist and model lend the work to being both self-portrait and portrait at the same time?
o Joanna’s painting- I had a beautiful and vibrant mental design. I had a great plan, but I couldn’t make it work. The painting fought me as soon as I started drawing and kept fighting me until I took a step back. I realized the concept was too busy for my minimalist friend. The painting wasn’t working because I was pushing my aesthetic on her, and the back of my brain knew that; the front of my brain took longer to catch on.
· How am I exploring this concept, through my research and my practice?
o My sessions with Anna
§ Painting a stranger, then learning their mannerisms, cadence, and personality.
§ The relationship dynamic changing, feeling more comfortable around each other
o Painting my friends, allowing them to make choices about how I paint them
§ By giving them more choices, am I minimizing my essence in the work? Is it possible to do that without becoming essentially an assistant (style)?
· Who did I reference? Who did I paint- strangers, friends, family, lovers?
o Painting project with closest friends- our relationship is solid. Will I be more, or less, present in these, and who decides that- how visible am I (or our relationship) in their portraits?
o How can our relationships shape the work that I create, and how does my work affect our relationships?
· Where do I go next?
o There are so many questions that arise just as I think I’ve found the answer to the last one.
o Expanding the work with my friends/family, exploring our relationships through art and observing the way creating the art and the final piece may impact us.
· How does the relationship between the model and the artist affect the outcome of the piece? Is it apparent when there is a solid relationship vs. a stranger?
· How much of the artist is present in each portrait they paint?
There you have it. Please give me some feedback to further hone my paper.