Although Pablo Picasso's name is virtually synonymous with modernity, his late graphics repeatedly turn back to the traditional theme of the artist and model. Had the aging artist turned reactionary, or is Picasso's treatment of the theme more subversive than anyone has suspected?
In this innovative study, Karen L. Kleinfelder rejects the claim that Picasso's later work was a failure. The failing, she claims, lies more in the way we typically have read the images, treating them merely as reflections of an "old-age" style or of the artist's private life.
Focusing on graphics dating from 1954 to 1970, Kleinfelder shows how Picasso plays with the artist-model theme to extend, subvert, and parody both the possibilities and limits of representation. For Kleinfelder, Picasso's graphic work both mystifies and demystifies the creative process, venerates and mocks the effects of aging and the artist's self-image as a living "old master," and acknowledges and denies his own fear of death.
Using recent interpretive and literary theory, Kleinfelder probes the three-way relationship between artist, model, and canvas. The dynamics of this relationship provided Picasso with an open-ended textual framework for exploring the dichotomies of man/woman, self/other, and vitality/mortality. What unfolds is the artist's struggle not only with the impossibility of representing the model on canvas, but also with the inevitability of his own death.
Kleinfelder explores how Picasso's means of pursuing these issues allows him to defer closure on a long, productive career. By focusing on the graphics rather than the paintings, Kleinfelder contradicts the primacy of the painted "masterpiece"; she steers the reader away from the assumption that the artist must work toward creating a final body of work that signifies the culmination of his search for a coherent identify.
Picasso's search, she argues, realizes itself in the creative process. She interprets the late graphics not as a biographical statement but as a tool for investigating the possibilities of representation within the limits of Picasso's medium and his lifetime. Richly illustrated, Kleinfelder's book will open up new approaches to the late work of this complex artist.
Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object is a lively meditation on the profession of art modeling as it has been practiced in history and as it is practiced today. Kathleen Rooney draws on her own experiences working as an artist's model, as well as the famous, notorious, and mysterious artists and models through the ages. Through a combination of personal perspective, historical anecdote, and witty prose, Live Nude Girl reveals that both the appeal of posing nude for artists and the appeal of drawing the naked figure lie in our deeply human responses to beauty, sex, love, and death.
Our era is defined by the model. From Victoria’s Secret and America’s Next Top Model to the snapshots we post on Facebook and Twitter, our culture is fixated on the pose, the state of existing simultaneously as artifice and the real thing.
In this bold view of contemporary culture, Wendy Steiner shows us the very meaning of the arts in the process of transformation. Her story begins at the turn of the last century, as the arts abandoned the representation of the world for a heady embrace of the abstract, the surreal, and the self-referential. Today though, this “separate sphere of the aesthetic” is indistinguishable from normal life. Media and images overwhelm us: we gingerly negotiate a real-virtual divide that we suspect no longer exists, craving contact with what J. M. Coetzee has called “the real real thing.” As the World Wide Web renders the lower-case world in ever-higher definition, the reality-based genres of memoir and documentary are displacing fiction, and novels and films are depicting the contemporary condition through model-protagonists who are half-human, half-image. Steiner shows the arts searching out a new ethical potential through this figure: by stressing the independent existence of the model, they welcome in the audience in all its unpredictability, redefining aesthetic experience as a real-world interaction with the promise of empathy, reciprocity, and egalitarian connection.
A masterly performance by a penetrating, inquisitive mind, The Real Real Thing is that rarest of books, one whose provocations and inspirations will inspire readers to take a new—and nuanced—look at the world around them.