french art history

Les Raboteurs de Parquet (The Floor Scrapers), 1875, by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)

“This is one of the first paintings to feature the urban working class. It reintroduces the subject of the male nude in the painting, but in a strikingly updated form. Instead of the heroes of antiquity, here are the heroes of modern life - sinewy and strong - in stooped poses that would appear demeaning if they did not convey a sense of masculine strength and honest labor.”

Forbidden Fruit (Le Fruit Défendu) by Auguste Toulmouche, 1865, illustrating how young women have always rebelled against having their access to knowledge policed.

Nineteenth-century French and British families kept a close eye on the literature allowed to pass into the hands of unmarried girls (married women were not automatically exempt, either). While Toulmouche’s painting garnered great acclaim for its aesthetic charms when it was exhibited at the Salon of 1865, a contemporary male art critic’s sour aside summed up the prevailing attitude to independent female minds:

“I do not approve of these silly girls; instead of searching forbidden pages for the knowledge that they lack, they would do better to leave tomorrow’s lover the pleasure of instructing them in the matters of which they are ignorant.” Paul Mantz quoted in Women Readers in French Painting 1870-1890 by Kathryn J. Brown.

No comment.