This is an overview of the exhibition I saw in Paris last week – ‘Splendour & Misery, Pictures of Prostitution’, 1850-1910 at Musee d’Orsay.
The Musee d’Orsay is one of my favourite museums. Sitting on the left bank of the Seine in the 7th arrondissement it is beautifully located. A great meeting place with it’s large animal sculptures outside and within walking distance of many other Paris landmarks.
Claire outside the Musse d’Orsay
The first major show on the subject of Prostitution, this exhibition retraces the way French and foreign artists, fascinated by the subject, have constantly sought to find pictorial resources for depicting its realities and fantasies in the world of Prostitution..
From Manet’s Olympia, to Dega’s Absinth, from Toulouse-Lautrec‘s forays into brothels, to the bold pictures of Picasso, the exhibition focuses on the subject of prostitution’s central place in the development of modern painting
Manet’s ‘Olympia’ which caused great scandal and outrage when first shown at the 1865 Salon.
The Black Cat detail from Manet’s Olympia…..the black cat at the bottom of the bed is often missed…..
Dega’s, ‘Absinthe’. I feel so sad when I look at this painting, my sadness mirroring that of the female subject. It’s as if all the life has been drained from her. I ask myself the question….What were her dreams – who is she?
This is a huge exhibition, one that warrants several visits. I was struck time and again as I observed each painting that this was, and still is a man’s world of ‘pleasure’. Sadly the world of buying and selling women for sex continues, possibly today to an even greater extent!
Toulouse-Lautrec’s ‘Au Moulin Rouge’ A large and superb body of Lautrec’s work was on view.
Depicted in ‘Au Moulin Rouge’ – we see the women surrounded by the bourgeoisie – men of the middle class who after a night of entertainment, would then return to their bourgeoisie wives. Another group of women trapped in a societal warp.
This exhibition not only shows us the world of prostitution in Paris, from the courtesans to the ‘pierreus’ (street walkers) during a the 19th and early 20th centuries – it also gives us an insight into the recent history of women’s struggle to gain some sort of equality. (many of the prostitutes had jobs, and used prostitution to augment their finances)
I could write so much more, but as I said at the beginning of this blog….this is an overview of what for me was a wonderfully thought provoking experience.
Afterwards a lovely walk through Paris with Claire.
I hope everyone enjoys a lovely weekend.