The Artist Adds Ten Pounds

art, history, camera, painting, portraits, photography

art, history, camera, painting, portraits, photography
I think some of our current fascination with youth and beauty stems from a ready access to images of ourselves. Mirrors of polished metal have been around since ancient times. Metal-backed glass mirrors have been around since the middle ages but they were expensive items of the rich until the 19th century when manufacturing techniques improved. However, as we all know, the image in the mirror never quite matches the one on film.

art, history, camera, painting, portraits, photographyBefore Kodak launched the Brownie camera in 1900, the vast majority of people throughout history have not had ready access to pictures of themselves. I think the invention of the photograph radically changed how we view ourselves. At no time in history have we been able to instantaneously see ourselves from every angle, scrutinizing our looks, the size of our bodies or ruining the mental image of ourselves. Only just a few years ago we had to wait until the film was developed before we realized how many bad pictures of us were now printed for posterity. Don’t even get me started on home video cameras. Now we have phones and digital cameras with screens, many of which contain a slimming mode. Sucking it in may be a thing of the past.

Which makes me to wonder what people thought when they saw a drawing or painting of themselves. Did people look at their portraits and exclaim, “Is that art, history, camera, painting, portraits, photographywhat I really look like?!” Did they turn to their spouse and say “does that silhouette makes me look fat” ? I know some artists improved the features of their paying subjects, but did this really help the sitter? One wonders how many tense moments there were when everyone else saw the painting and had to pretend it was an accurate likeness. Can you imagine the awkward silence?

If you want to take a trip to the past, check out my books. They are set in the past.


Amarinda Jones said...

I always admire people who can paint portraits - to get someone's features on canvas so accurately is amazing

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

This reminds me of all the hullabaloo around Sargent's portrait of Madame X, one of my favorite paintings. Apparently Virginie Guitreau suffered greatly after the painting was shown because it was such a sexy pose for the time. I think in the original of the painting her strap was even down on her shoulder.

Georgie Lee said...

I agree Amarinda. My sister is an artist and I admire her ability to paint people's features. I never had the talent for art.

Elizabeth, there is a great non-fiction book about the scandal surrounding the Madame X painting. It's called "Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X". It's so interesting to see how attitudes changed, even in her lifetime.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Thanks Georgie, I'll have to look for it.

Holly Greenfield said...

I loved you post! Interesting thouhgts on preserving ones image.

Thanks for stopping by Romance Spinners.

Anny Cook said...

And then of course, the ladies didn't have the wonderbra to "lift and separate" so imagine the uh sagging effect as women left that early womanhood.