Saturday, 10 October 2009

Venus in stockings: Woman in White Stockings by Gustave Courbet

Agent Triple P was lucky enough to visit the Barnes Foundation today; a truly remarkable gallery in Merion, a leafy suburb of Philadelphia which is only viewable by prior appointment. Fortunately one of Agent Triple P's contacts enabled him to jump the considerable (six weeks) waiting list.

Albert C Barnes (1872-1951) developed the antiseptic drug Argyrol and with the fortune that created started to collect art. In 1910 he commissioned a friend of his to travel to Paris and buy some modern French paintings. His friend, William Glackens, returned with 20 paintings that formed the basis of his collection. In 1912 Barnes visited Paris and through Gertrude and Leo Stein met many of the great artists of the day such as Matisse and Picasso. His first Picasso cost him $100. Over the years his collection increased enormously and now includes 2,500 objects including 800 paintings with an estimated worth of $6 billion.

Triple P really went to look at the 181 (yes that is not a typo!) Renoirs in the collection but there are also 69 paintings by Paul Cézanne, 59 by Henri Matisse, as well as numerous others by Paul Gauguin, El Greco, Francisco Goya, Edouard Manet, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Maurice Utrillo, and Vincent Van Gogh. Several of the Renoirs are very famous indeed and we will look at these another time.

Today we were particularly struck by Woman in White Stockings (1861) (32" x 25")by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877); one of the earlier erotic works he produced during the 1860s which were usually commissioned by collectors for their private appreciation.

It's a striking, anatomically forthright picture and the viewer is left in no doubt that the young lady removing her stockings is doing it for the benefit of an unseen observer.

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