Sex and Love in Modern Art
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
Dr. Benjamin Binstock
Assistant Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, The Cooper Union
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