Sunday, September 23, 2018

Not safe for work

This is a Kindle gallery of Francois Boucher painting and drawings. Boucher was a prominent 18th century French painter, working in the Rococo style. Personally, I don't think Kindle does him justice. While some works come across well, others are too small – Boucher's paintings are teeming with little details which are hardly visible here! I don't think there is a substitute for a real printed art book, or the paintings themselves, in this case.

Also, a word of warning might be in order. Although this is considered fine art (at least today, 250 years later), it could be “not safe for work”. Boucher's motifs are often sexual in nature, explicitly or implicitly. Some paintings look homo-erotic (lesbian) or frankly pornographic. Boucher's patrons must have been downright obsessed with the ancient myth of Jupiter and Callisto, where Jupiter takes the form of Diana in order to seduce Callisto. The poor artist had to paint this myth many times during his career! It's also interesting to note that Boucher often used the same models to paint both males and females, an example of the gender-bending popular in the French aristocracy at the time.

It's easy to interpret the frivolous, apolitical and (homo-)erotic traits of the Rococo as a sign of decadence and cultural decline, especially when seen in social context. The era of the Rococo (mid-18th century France) is also the era of Louis XV and Madame Le Pompadour, easily the low point of the ancien régime. At the same time, it seems our cultural decline is uniquely bad in a world historical perspective. The French aristocracy at least had enough taste to commission real paintings of reclining nudes, while today bizarre stuff like unmade beds, toilets or torture porn is considered the zenith of artistic accomplishment.

I'm almost tempted to say: Monsieur Rococo, come back, all is forgiven!

No comments:

Post a Comment