Thursday, 6 January 2011

Une comte d'un con et de M Lacan, part deux

First a recap. This is the second in a series of blogs about - or, at least, occasioned by - a painting by Courbet, L'Origine du Monde. I've been planning - or, perhaps, threatening - to write about it ever since I learned that the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan had been the painting's last private owner.

I can't remember when I first indicated I was intending to write something but it was long enough ago that the material I accumulated to the point where I realised it was not so much a potential blog as the basis for something more - though quite what I still don't know, which is why I'm blogging it now. C

It was certainly long enough ago that my Anglo-French correspondent Paul jogged my typing elbows by sending me his Christmas greetings on a card featuring the painting. It's the second biggest seller at the giftshop in its current home, the Musee D'Orsay. (The biggest is Renoir's Bal du Moulin de la Galette, I think.)

How big has it got? Well, looking at what I’ve written so far, it’s far, far longer than a couple of blogs. I’ll break it up and post one new section a day over the next week or so. It could be as many as ten postings, I reckon. A whole of blogging, I know, and the final posting will, I guess, be about why so much writing.

If you want to read the whole first part, it's here. If not, you might like to know that my thoughts about the Courbet were rejogged by the comments of a Greek art critic who referenced the painting in his comments on a gynaecologically inclined photographic portrait, entitled My British Wife, which is currently on show at the National Portrait Gallery.

So . . . (this is where it originally — ha, ha — started) . . .

I can't remember where and when I first saw Courbet's L'Origine du Monde. But I can remember what I thought. And I think most people thought the same kind of things.

One I was struck by the wit of the title - not at all what you expect of a French painter.

Two I thought it was a modern painting - perhaps a work by a late 1970s American or German hyper-realist.

Three When I saw the name Courbet on it*, I decided I must have seen it before, that it was part of the established canon of western nudes. Only it isn't - or rather wasn't when I first saw it. I was quite wrong about that. Though now on display at the Musée d'Orsay, in the same room as another picture that shocked 19th century Paris, Manet's Le Déjeuner sur L'Herbe, it's only been there since 1995. Most of its life it's been cloistered away — which is mostly

Four It was a really odd painting, poised between realism and pornography - deliberately, I guess. And then, of course, there was its subject matter . . .

Five Its title is, I guessed, was related to the Latin saying, inter faeces et urinam nascimur.

* On the label, not on the painting itself. It is unsigned and undated.

Next up In time, a return to Freud (and, in Hamlet’s phrase) country matters. But first, a return to 1860s Paris.


Lo Jardinier said...

The painting was in a Courbet show in Montpellier a while ago. It's funny how we humans can get so fixed on a single image - I wonder how many songs, stories would get written if we didn't.

Peter Silverton said...

What kind of show in montpellier (home of the shoe shop, i recall from a holiday spent in the area)?

What did people do as they looked at it?

Are you suggesting more songs & stories would get written or fewer?

I'm not sure which outcome is more interesting.

Lo Jardinier said...

Musée Fabre (not Freeman Hardy Willis).
Reactions: studiedly unstudied.
I was suggesting we resolve our idées fixes in songs etc, so, if we didn't get obsessed by things, we'd write fewer.
Happy new year, by the way.

Peter Silverton said...

There is also the idea that we resolve things through songs, by playing them again and again and again, till we have drained all their meaning for us. Hence teenager's love of pop. (Maybe mine, too) And also falling out of love with songs — because they have done their work for you and moved on to help someone else, leaving you with only a faint echo of something profound when you hear them - like when you catch the scent of your dead mother's perfume on a passing stranger.