Sex and Love in Modern Art

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Our workshop seeks to explore the history, dynamics, and meaning of sex and love in Modern Art. We begin with the rise of the individual and new attention to the body and sexuality in the Renaissance, in keeping with the “rebirth” of antique values, although simultaneously fraught in relation to Christian tradition. New conceptions of woman as divine person and in secular portraiture, the ambivalent homoeroticism of Michelangelo and Caravaggio, and censored pornography define the poles of this development. The domestic bourgeois woman and artist’s companion gradually emerges in the art of Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Vermeer’s daughter Maria, together with new autobiographical and eventually “feminist” focus and frank sexuality. In the literature and philosophy of the eighteenth century in particular comes renewed attention to the role of the body and gender in thought, society, and culture; Diderot, Marivaux, Watteau, Boucher, and the woman painter Vigee le Brun are key examples. The romantic and revolutionary nineteenth century marks the emergence of our modern sensibility, the apotheosis of love and celebration of sexuality, in both oppressive and subversive forms, most notably in Manet and Baudelaire. Love and Sex continue to define our contemporary moment, in art ranging from Stanley Kubrik and Phillip Roth to Cindy Sherman film stills and Judy Chicago’s installations. Special emphasis will be placed on following the threads that tie together these diverse achievements in a common genealogy, in order to understand where we have come from and where we are going in our understanding of sex and love in modern art.


Keywords: Sex, Love, Modern Art, Body, Sexuality, Renaissance, Lacan, Fetishism, Woman, Vermeer, Diderot
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Benjamin Binstock

Assistant Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, The Cooper Union
New York, NY, USA

Benjamin Binstock earned his Ph.D. in Art History at Columbia University, after study in Aix-en-Provence, Berkeley, Berlin, and Amsterdam. He was a visiting member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and the American Academy of Berlin, and has taught at Columbia, New York University, CUNY, and presently at the Cooper Union. As a teacher and scholar, I try to combine provocative questioning and fastidious philology to address central questions of our discipline as a means to establish an ongoing dialogue about art and history.
Aloïs Riegl, Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts trans. J. Jung (New York: Zone Books, 2004), introduction: “Aloïs Riegl, Monumental Ruin: Why We Still Need to Read Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts,” 11-36. “Seeing Representations; or, The Hidden Master in Rembrandt’s Syndics,” Representations 83 (2003), 1-37.

Dr. Anne Deneys-Tunney

Professor, French Department, New York University
New York, NY, USA

Dr. Deneys-Tunney's publications include Ecritures du corps, De Descartes à Laclos, P.U.F., Paris, 1992, (pp. 328); Volney, (co dirigé avec Henry Deneys)Corpus, Revue de Philosophie: n° Spécial 11/12, Paris, Nanterre, 1989. (pp.198); A.L.C.Destutt de Tracy et l’Idéologie (co dirigé avec Henry Deneys). Corpus, Revue de Philosophie, n° Spécial 26/27, Nanterre, 1994. (pp.301); L'Epicurisme des lumières, (co dirigé avec Pierre-François Moreau), Dix-Huitième Siècle, n° 35, 2003 PUF/ CNRS, (pp.667); Le corps du 18eme siècle, au croisement de la littérature, de la science et de la philosophie, (co dirigé avec H. Cussac, and C. Seth.), Presses Université de Laval à Québec, 2008, (375 pp.) and « L'Isle du genre humain, c'est la terre », Rousseau, soumis pour publication auprés des PUF.

Ref: A09P0564