100 Days of Art History Jinjins


It's Sweet Doing Nothing

The Victorians went through this period where they just loved to draw lounging women in transparent-ish vaguely antiquity-inspired clothing. John Williams Waterhouse did a ton, and I was also looking at John William Godward and Frederic Leighton who did their share too.

Before I started this project I thought these types of paintings were absolutely beautiful. The women in them were aspirational to me, and they seemed to really embody the fantasy of what Art and Beauty meant. I did more than one in this style, especially early on, because I liked them so much.

Now I think these are kind of boring--yeah, of course hot ladies lounging sexily in sheer clothing are appealing, and I still think they're pretty. But I find them a little shallow compared to other paintings which have more existential tension in them to ponder, and more true life energy and humanity to convey. And they completely objectify women as decorative rather than showing them as full human beings with interiority, agenecy, and complexity.

All that said, in a time of stress I was able to vicariously live my fantasy of luxurious leisure by doing this painting, so I can't hate too hard. Part of the popularity of this kind of painting at the time also came from a search for beauty as a form of escapism from industrial Britain's mass production and grime, so I guess we have that in common.

Reference image is from WikiArt. It is now in a private collection.

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