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  #1  
Old 04-19-2003, 10:38 PM
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fritchie fritchie is offline
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Post Nudes, Social Context and Voyeurism

Let me introduce a topic significant for sculptors working in the figurative field, to bounce off this Community. The general concept is contained in the title.

Most of my career has been spent in scientific research and teaching, but I had an opportunity to see firsthand much of the Western world’s best sculpture (and painting too) many years ago, in my early twenties, courtesy of an international scholarship which took me to Scotland for an academic year and much of the rest of western Europe the following summer. Suffice it to say that these museums provided a mindblowing experience in almost pre-television days.

One of the greatest lessons is that no substitute exists for firsthand experience of visual art. Even the best-illustrated art books pale in comparison with the colors of actual art. In sculpture, the two-dimensional presentation of books conveys the faintest shadow of the real thing.

I took my first sculpture classes, actually my first art classes, free of charge as a science faculty member a few years after beginning with a university, as a relief from the concentration of research and teaching. The classes were in the figure, as that was the principal introductory course, but it also was the subject most interesting to me.

This is a long prelude to the topic at hand, but it shows my oblique introduction to sculpture. My learning as a figurative sculptor principally has been ad hoc and undirected in the area of theory. When I began serious work, I read biographies as much as I could, and general surveys of the major figurative traditions. It seems that the sculptural nude was fully accepted in certain early cultures, principally Greek and Roman (and also in many ancient or tribal cultures) as a reflection of everyday life, but that over the millennia society itself moved away from full or partial nudity, and that the nude in sculpture became more remote in consequence.

Today, nudes mainly are encountered in the classical or neoclassical context, or alternatively as depictions of remote cultures. In effect, the nude in our own society is denied sculptural legitimacy, excepting a cultural elite. In my own work, I have used a hypothetical “ideal world” similar to the godly world of the Greeks and Romans, but I have insisted that the people in this world be real, everyday Americans.

How do some of you other figurative sculptors justify and plan your own nudes?
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Old 04-19-2003, 11:05 PM
Judy Robins Judy Robins is offline
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Dear Fritchie - I don't understand why you have to justify your nude sculptures? Please explain? I don't feel I have to justify any of my art work, art is what I do, whether it is of a nude or a tree or an abstract thing.... I have been studying the nude for almost 30 years. I attend a figure drawing group once a week, and have for 20 years. It is like practicing the piano. I feel if you can draw the nude you can sculpt anything in any style, from abstract to realism. The nude is everywhere in nature, plants, animals, lanscapes, clouds, water, even angular abstract metal sculptures. My advise to you is just do it and don't worry about justifying anything. Judy
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  #3  
Old 04-20-2003, 10:09 PM
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Naked & Nude

If I am correct, an aspect of what you are getting at is the place of the nude in current art practice, and perhaps more importantly, in mainstream society. I have all my artbooks packed because I just finished moving, but there is a benchmark art historical book dealing with key aspects titled, The Naked and the Nude.

Simply put, contemporary societies don't accept nakedness or nudity in public, and art is usually viewed in public, at least initially for critical response, and that puts it in an awkward position.

Is figure study to be used only as an artistic training exercise?

The dialogue of mainstream contemporary art practice demands that use of the figure be a part of a much more inclusive inquiry that addresses conceptual, technical, philosphical and even political issues. I think there is a place for the nude, but it ain't straight from the salon.

Where does "the male gaze" fit into this dialogue? Pornography?

Contemporary nude representation seems most acceptable in painting. Lucian Freud and Jenny Saville are both painting nudes, as is Erich Fischl (whose sculpture's nudeness as a September 11 memorial raised big controversy.)

Great topic. I am interested to hear what others might add.

Randy
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Old 04-21-2003, 12:10 AM
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Thumbs up Justification of the Nude in Sculpture

Let me take today’s posts in two bytes. First, Judy. My need to “justify” my nude sculptures has many sources. On one level, there is the issue of sales. Sculpture is pretty expensive to make, and if sales are restricted because of some reluctance from the buyer, that limits what the artist can produce. On another level, everyone wants approval to some degree, even if we pretend not to and go our own ways regardless of the reaction.

From still another viewpoint, it is part of my personality to want to have things ordered, and not proceed haphazardly in the things that I do. That means I need a rationale or theme for my work, and I want this theme to be meaningful in today’s world, somewhat along the lines of one of Randy’s points. those are three things that come to mind right away.

On your point about practicing with the nude as with the piano. Certainly the nude is one of the more complex visual items readily available, and I agree that practice with the nude can benefit any artist in developing the artistic trait of fresh “seeing”, but let me ask you, politely and not in an aggressive way, are you really interpreting each nude as a unique experience and not simply applying Renaissance, Classical, Cubist, Rodinesque or other preconceptions to what you see? If you have been doing this as long as you have, I’m sure you know what I mean about the difficulty of seeing each day’s visions in a fresh way. I’d appreciate your thoughts on the issue of artistic “seeing”.
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Old 04-21-2003, 12:12 AM
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Post Nudity and Self-conceptualization

Randy - I believe you are referring to a book by Kenneth Clarke which I read when it came out, some twenty or so years ago. I think he had a TV series with the same name. I’ve forgotten his points exactly, but part of it had to do with the existing societal context at each given age. He compared the Italian Renaissance’s elegantly conceived, rhythmic and socially approved nudes with Middle Ages’ awkwardly formed bodies that he compared with turnips, as I remember.

The issue here was that Renaissance thinkers looked on mankind as a source of infinite possibility and potentially of good things, but Middle Ages thinking viewed humankind as inherently debased and evil, lost but for intercession of the Christian church. Part of my personal conflict regarding the nude is in fact an outcome of the five hundred year old, Protestant, Christian Reformation. I am of a Protestant background and work on the edge of a majority Protestant community, though New Orleans, where I live, probably is majority Roman Catholic and more receptive to the nude, in the continuing Roman tradition.

I personally think depicting the nude is one of the highest callings of art, as it reveals one’s internal image of humankind, but American society at large still is dominated by the Reformation’s delegitimizing the figure because of its perceived misuse through Western Christian history in depicting the Deity. I’m not sure how much this forum should focus on a specific religion, but the fact is that majority American society today mistrusts the figure, especially the nude, largely because of this half-millennium old insight. So there is your”inclusive inquiry”, Randy.

Russ’ older forum, started when the ISC web site first appeared, had extensive and insightful conversations on just this issue - the role of the nude in forming one’s conception of self and of one’s place in society. Community images of the figure in general, and especially of the nude, contribute to growth of personality and to generation of one’s whole outlook on the world. So there is feminism, “blackness”, Native-Americanism, and almost any other contemporary issue you want to examine. It’s just not obvious on the surface.

As far as "the male gaze", which is being copied today somewhat by "the female gaze", that’s an age-old transaction of power which probably never will be eliminated short of widespread lobotomization. You can see why I didn’t get to the “voyeurism” part of my title. It’s a corollary of "the male gaze". This subject is important and is huge.
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  #6  
Old 04-21-2003, 04:28 PM
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nothing stirs me to action more so than a nude figure. outside of the spirit that lives within it, i have never encountered anything more beautiful.
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  #7  
Old 05-01-2003, 05:56 PM
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The one thing you cannot control is the thoughts and feelings of the viewer.

You can take an educated guess, and allow that to effect your work. Or you can follow your own path, and possibly be damned for it.

Take heart. This society, like others before, will change and the product of your labour will not.

What's made of it, is out of your hands.
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Old 05-02-2003, 10:44 PM
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Re: Nudes, Social Context

Quote:
How do some of you other figurative sculptors justify and plan your own nudes?
I've never done much in the way of classical style nudes - most recently the only full figure nudes I have done were two small peaceful naked protesters who express their own cryptic concern that people want me to do cheap Bali carving copies for them.

You got me wondering why I have been stuck on the head now for so long. Perhaps I haven't been so interested in the nude figure - because of the voyeurism on my own life (the perves, wankers, molesters and other 'body' intrusions I have endured as a female object) I tend to use my own symbolism for my sex. I'm hoping to be able to erect a large negative phallic sculpture in granite up the beach at Pottsville later this year. I noticed that they have installed large concrete pipes for drainage all along the beach promenade. Sculpturally, they are to me the opposite of phallic. My own Phallussy sculpture will have balls. Visually the balls in negative space would represent their target - ovaries!

I hope that answers your question on voyeurism and our approach to nudes.

I have photos of the original Bali copies I did and the protesters on disk, but I don't know how to put them up here.
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Old 05-02-2003, 11:20 PM
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Nudes and society

Let me mostly skip Benny's reply here and go to Araich's. The discussion about Ron Mueck’s work, plus much more on the subject I have read in the last few days in the NY Times, do show that the public, or at least art reviewers, will give wide acceptance to nudes in at least some forms, as long as they are well and confidently done. You’re right about not being able to control others’ reactions. Maybe the best thing is just to do what you think is best.

Benny - to post images, probably jpeg or gif files are best. When you "post a reply”, down a bit from the typing area you will find a message that says “attach file, with a grey area to the right, and a button that says “Browse”. You can type the picture’s file name in the grey box, but it’s much easier to click the browse button, and then locate the file (picture) name on your disk. Double click on the file name, and it should be copied into the grey box for you. When that happens, click the “submit reply” button, and you should have your picture in the new post.
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Old 05-28-2003, 04:26 PM
Georges Georges is offline
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Nude as Etude

I find two reasons to study the nude (as an artist) - and they are sides of the same coin: Psycho-sexual intimacy with the subject matter.

Side 1: I have attached so many and diverse meanings and reaction/responses to various body parts that seeing the nude as a form to be rendered - rather than a conglomeration of symbols and triggers to be sorted out - makes for an interesting and formidable challenge.

Side 2: If I want to test my sense of form I should carve figures. If the proportions are off or the textures untrue then I better have meant to abstract them or the figure will appear malformed or inhuman.

The question of where to display nudes is up to the current sensibilties of the audience/culture and the level of controversy the venue is willing to support.
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Old 05-28-2003, 08:58 PM
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Oracles

Georges - You're being Delphic here. I think I agree with what you’re saying, but do you elaborate more in another accessible place, or would you go into a bit more detail here? I’ll admit I haven’t done much research, e. g., on whether you have a web site or the kind or sculpture you do.
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Old 05-29-2003, 05:43 AM
anne (bxl) anne (bxl) is offline
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would you help me to clarify the debate?
are nudes or voyeurism only those pieces of art who describe the body (or part of the body)?
I mean, I work on female sensuality and emotions, fascination of male symbols (including sexual organes abstraction) and others similar sujects that lead the world.... are those for you figurative work, nudes and/or voyeurism?
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Old 05-29-2003, 04:07 PM
Georges Georges is offline
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More detail

Fritchie replied: Georges... would you go into a bit more detail here?

Beyond the technical complexity of the component forms in the figure, there are many other things for the artist to confront such as his own reactions to exposed gentalia.

Afterall, it is difficult enough to explore the proportion, texture and contour of a particular subject's nose without preconceived and generalized notions of "nose" superimposing themselves.

But the conflicting impositions of instinctual drives and cultural inhibitions triggered by the sight of uncovered labia, for instance, create an even greater potential for distortion. How does the artist relax and, simply, render the forms? Clearly, if he can achieve this without becoming either clinical or vulgar he can render any likeness - if not with the jounalistic "objectivity" of the realist or naturalist - at least with honesty, clarity and respect.

If you choose to either "elide" the details of these features or occlude them by modifying the pose that's fine with me. Nothing wrong with modesty or tastefulness. You'll probably sell more work - at least to the mainstream. But you will not have confronted the challenge I have outlined.

For those of you who suggest I either transcend my hang-ups or embrace them - good for you! I hope you, yourselves, have done so. If so, you are beyond this predicament. That's my point.

As for my point about the sensibilities of the audience/culture - I can be appalled that Ashcroft felt compelled to cover a breast shaped lump of stone on a public statue - but that should neither modify my sensibilities nor my approach. It's hard to say how it might, ultimately, affect the market for nudes. C'est la guerre.
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Old 05-29-2003, 10:15 PM
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Working with nudes

Georges - Thanks for going into more detail. That’s not quite what I thought you had in mind, and your frank statement helps the dialogue. I have worked with a reasonable, though small, number of models, and I’m afraid that I, too, skim the pelvic area and generalize a bit there. The models I’ve used nude, both female and male, on the other hand, have been quite professional about the situation. Most had worked with artists before me, and I expect they had come to terms with the fact of posing.

So far, and with the exception of males who are partly clothed in current fashion, I have refused to hide nudity, but some models have preferred discrete poses and that has been fine with me. I always work with the model to choose something comfortable to them and esthetically significant for me. Where the piece might find a home is a consideration I leave for later, but it always is in the back of my mind, particularly in my more strategic moments during those midnight hours of thinking.
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Old 05-29-2003, 10:44 PM
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Nudes and voyeurism

Anne - Thanks for giving me another chance to explain the word "voyeurism" in the title of this thread. What I really had in mind when I chose that title, was something simple, namely to say that I think torsos sell more readily than full figures, just because people find it somewhat discomfiting to look at a figure when there is a face potentially looking back. There is potentially an element in voyeurism in that reaction, but beyond sales concerns, it should not affect an artist’s work. The initial post got so long, I ended without saying this.

Randy mentioned “the male gaze" in a later post, and that is another factor someone working with the nudes must consider. In this age of equality, I somewhat in jest remarked that there is a parallel “female gaze”. That is true, of course. Both terms reflect the transactions of power we meet in everyday life, and the artist also must consider this fact when working with nudes.

Altogether, working with nudes in sculpture is extremely complex and challenging. But the work is equally rewarding, both to the sculptor and to society. That’s one reason I try to persuade more people toattempt it

I know I didn’t address all your points, but this reply is getting long, too. Come back with more of your questions.

Last edited by fritchie : 05-29-2003 at 10:47 PM.
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Old 05-30-2003, 11:52 AM
Georges Georges is offline
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When they're not looking

I find it rings true that it feels voyeuristic to look at a nude figure that "makes eye contact". Ironically, an actual voyeur - in the "Rear Window" sense of the word - is much more like a spy hoping to avoid the gaze of their subject but excited by that same risk.

But, doesn't it seem odd that a nude torso - a headless mass of bare body parts - is seen as "tasteful" while a fully nude figure creates the illusion that it is "alive" enough to be modest or deserve privacy.

Oh, the power of Art.
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Old 05-30-2003, 03:48 PM
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Nudes, etc.

Very interesting discussion of an issue that is as old as Art, or at least as old as Art History. The masters' images of Venus et al, as well as the various Davids have certainly titillated more people than they've inspired over the centuries. And of course much of "classical" painting was more than anything else an excuse and opportunity for ogling voluptuous bodies, when there were no other excuses or opportunities available to people. Personally, I remember being "caught" in the basement as a teenager, trying to paint a work of Art using a Playboy centerfold as my model. And I'd say that, in college, only about half of the people in beginning Life Drawing and Life Sculpture classes had any interest in Art whatsoever. It's ludicrous and appalling and yet a source of great delight that humans are so conflicted about their physiognomy. I love what Georges says, above, about the "conflicting impositions of instinctual drives". In my experience, this is exactly true. Nearly all of my sculpture is derived from a "figure study". All that means is, it has a head and a tail, or some aspect of a head or a tail, at some point during its making. In the making I reach a point at which the abstract qualities of the forms and the material become more important than "representing" the figure, and the figurative aspects may pretty much be disregarded. But the vitality of the thing, at least for me, still derives from its essential evocation of the human figure in relation to space. I'll apologize in advance to anybody who is offended by anybody else's "gaze", but I say, "Viva la difference".
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Old 12-31-2003, 12:26 PM
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Re: Nudes, Social Context and Voyeurism

More at nudes......
Once upon a time, and a very long time ago it was,.... My sculpting mentor, John Kroll, and I shared a model and did a figurative study.
When we were done, he (much to my horror) cut the head, arms, and legs off of his piece.....proclaiming that he had "saved the "good part" by tossing the garbage".
At the time, I had thought that he had gone quite mad. However, as the years passed, and the memory of the horror faded, I had to admit that he was indeed right in his decision.
the craft is a harsh mistress.
I find it easier to keep the whole, and crop the picture:
eg:
a cropped picture of Lynn in the clay:

So: If I were to crop the actual statue, would you suggest cropping more? or less?
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Old 12-31-2003, 02:31 PM
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Re: Nudes, Social Context and Voyeurism

Rodin's "Danaide" was all about her back. A lot of her is not as detailed. But at the same time the rest is present. In that work I felt the personality of the subject communicated much in the pose. Never mind if the setting was supposed to be mythilogical or biblical or not. In a case where so much of the subjects emotion is desplayed I feel that it is a distraction more than a clearing away when the sculpture is cropped.

As for photos, I would lean toward cropping nothing and more toward video sweeps around the work.

Bye the way women seem more arrested than men, by my print of "Danaide." And their comment almost always leave me with the feeling they feel the sculpture is of themselves at some point in time.
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Old 12-31-2003, 03:48 PM
Stephen Casey Stephen Casey is offline
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Re: Nudes, Social Context and Voyeurism

Your Isis is very interesting. Clicking on the large link above shows the sculpture inside the sculpture (inside the hair). You give more info than Joesph Cambell on that page.

I am not surprised you have had so few complaints from the public. I think that bronze, cold or otherwise gets imidiate respect from the public. And I feel it also dismisses a lot of the inapropriate feelings of voyeurism. I thought about doing something so bold, but I think a lot of us have, and darn few such as yourself have actually done it. Congratulations.
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Old 12-31-2003, 08:33 PM
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Re: Nudes, Social Context and Voyeurism Danaid

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Casey
Rodin's "Danaide" was all about her back. A lot of her is not as detailed. But at the same time the rest is present. ... etc. ...
Bye the way women seem more arrested than men, by my print of "Danaide." And their comment almost always leave me with the feeling they feel the sculpture is of themselves at some point in time.
Stephen, I believe Danaid is of Rodin's mistress (one of many), the sculptor who feminists recently have accused him of copying, but whose name I have forgotten. Do you know more about this?

I 've not studied her very carefully, but it is a very intimate pose. Do you know how these women you describe interpret the piece?
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Old 12-31-2003, 10:10 PM
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Re: Nudes, Social Context, ... Casey figures

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Casey
Your Isis is very interesting.
Stephen - I loaded your large images of the chess pieces to look at, and since it went slowly, I put that process in the background and went on with other forums. Now I can’t find your original post on that subject, so I’m putting my reaction here. I especially like the head of the man with the moustache which is sitting on the table, and the animal-human head next to him, the one with the large nose. These show extra expressiveness to me. Keep up your work, and your extraordinarily helpful comments!
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Old 12-31-2003, 11:05 PM
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Re: Nudes, Social Context and Voyeurism

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Casey
Your Isis is very interesting. Clicking on the large link above shows the sculpture inside the sculpture (inside the hair). You give more info than Joesph Cambell on that page.

I am not surprised you have had so few complaints from the public. I think that bronze, cold or otherwise gets imidiate respect from the public. And I feel it also dismisses a lot of the inapropriate feelings of voyeurism. I thought about doing something so bold, but I think a lot of us have, and darn few such as yourself have actually done it. Congratulations.
How nice that you would positively compare me with Joseph Cambell.
He was an excellent mythrander(storyteller) and teacher.
Thank You.

The sculptures within a sculpture(of OSIRIS and HORUS) were a gift from a bad molding accident in which I lost most of the original piece---in the two years it took me to find another model who would do that rather difficult pose, the concept of the sculptures in the hair had a chance to work themselves out of my mental meanderings and into the clay. (never underestimate the power of dumb luck to see you home when intellect and carefull planning fail)

I would like to see the chess set pieces of which you and fritchie have spoken.

rod(sculptor)

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Old 01-02-2004, 09:01 PM
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Re: Nudes, Social, Voyeurism: Danaid

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Casey
Hello gentlemen and all others,

As for Danaide. I believe Rodin did another reworking of it, or Danaide was the reworking, with a very different thematic nameing. I have seen the artist-mistress referenced as the model for this piece a few times. But I don't remember if it was Camille Cladel or not. If my febble memory serves she died in a psychiatric hospital. And his decades long mistress was wed to him in their old age just a couple months before they both passed away.
...... etc. .......
Thanks for the name Camille Claudel. I saw that feminist movie when it first came out, some 15 - 20 years ago, I believe. It was quite good as an art film, and I learned a lot about both her and him. I think you are right that she eventually was institutionalized. He did marry his long-time mistress Rose Beuret (sp?) just before death, at the advice of friends, to give her a portion of his estate and continuing support. But he evidently had affairs constantly with others, often students.

I looked for Danaid in the art books I have, but didn’t find a picture. The one I have in mind is of a woman coiled loosely on a flat surface, more or less facing the floor, I think. The Danaides in legend, of course, were damned for killing their husbands on the orders of their father. Motivation, I don’t know.
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