Tag Archives: art

Paperworks contd.

14 Dec

Slaving away in the ‘brary as per usual in this, the last week before Winter Break and professors’ last stab at sucking knowledge out of our battered skulls, to sap our last energy reserves in hopes we’ll be utterly spent by Saturday — a sneaky, futile attempt to kill the party in us.  Luckily, the work I’m doing now is still centered around what my earlier post posited and is of great interest to me — so, here’s the start of an elaborated paper:

“I examine three female artists who are responsible for creating positive images of female smokers: Jane Atché, Louise Lavrut and Frances Benjamin Johnston.  They created a space for female smokers in an art world and social climate that depicted them as either a femme fatale or object of desire.  The phallic form of cigarettes and cigars had an inherently male association, however the objects themselves were personified by their owners as feminine.  By the turn of the 19th century, a public female smoker was still an anomaly in society.  The only women who smoked brazenly were women already marginalized outside of polite, bourgeois society, otherwise known as prostitutes or popular dancers.  The lesson to women in mainstream society was that smoking was an immoral act for women and showed looseness of character – smoking and drinking were a quick way to falter and destroy one’s reputation and upright morals.

It follows then, that the iconography surrounding women and smoking functioned within a morally-low context; portraying either a femme fatale in the cafés and dance halls or a sexualized female reaction to the symbolically male cigarette. The literal translation of femme fatale in terms of drinking can be seen in Picasso’s Le Moulin de la Gallete.

Here men and women commingle in a public space at night, however it is the women’s faces that get the artists attention and striking details whereas as the men are placed either high above the swarming crowd below or have their backs to the viewer.  The women are given lurid red lips or flashing white smiles with darkly painted eyes, housed in sharp, pointed faces.  The four women closest to the frontal plane of the painting are of particular interest:  the three seated ladies lean over the table and into each other next to an empty wine carafe while the lady in black on the right, who is reminiscent of Dracula iconography, commands here faceless blur of a partner with a strong arm, her bent elbow mimicking her elongated jaw line.

The sexualized female reaction is best portrayed in Mucha’s JOB: the ribbons of cigarette smoke encompass the incredibly stylized hair of a diaphanous young woman.  Her elongated neck, closed eyelids and parted lips suggest  a sexual enjoyment.

It is the female artists who depict women smoking and drinking as usurping what was supposed to be an exclusively male power and claiming it as an inclusive activity.  There is a perceptible shift in iconography, from male to female Impressionist and Art Nouveau artists, of women enjoying the traditionally male leisure activities of smoking and drinking.  With the advent of the “New Woman”, the suffragettes and wider accessibility to manufactured cigarettes, women moved from the private sphere to the public sphere to enjoy the We can see this clearly in the difference between Mucha’s and Atché’s JOB.

In Atché’s rendition, the woman is wearing appropriately middle to upper-class garb covering her entire body, including her neck.  Her hair is kept neatly pinned behind her head and painted with a solitary color – there are no wild tendrils seen here, as in Mucha’s, taking control of the woman or the scene depicted.  The harsh vertical of her cape reinforces her rigid posture while her face seems to reflect on the object in her hand.

Louise Lavrut and Frances Benjamin Johnston, each working in different mediums (Lavrut in oils and Johnston in photography) both depicted the pensive and reflective female in charge of her own pleasure while smoking and drinking for enjoyment.

Lavrut depicts The Girl of the Montmartre (c. 1900), the same year as Picasso’s Le Moulin de la Gallete, as a stable, middle-class woman closely cropped by the frame making her the center of attention.  Her posture is upright and her clothes are simple, reserved but refined.  The paint around her is characterized by brushy strokes while her face is sharpened by her dark clothes and tighter lines.  She smokes and drinks a beer next to a poster by Jules Chéret of tightly corseted, voluptuous dancers.

Lavrut’s response to paintings such as Chéret’s Fumar el Papel shows a marked contrast in perspectives on women and their role in society: in Lavrut’s work the viewer is meant to view the woman’s gaze as self-reflective not as coquettish or seductive.  Another image of self-reflection can be seen in Johnston’s self-portrait which shows the epitome of a positively addressed “new woman”.

She poses seated in a position of engaged conversation with an invisible companion, a lit cigarette in one hand and a beer stein in the other.  She’s surrounded by her own personal elements in her Washington, D.C. studio – the seat of her professional success – but still in front of the hearth, showing she can keep the home fires alive while still being a professionally active woman.. Her leg is crossed squarely over her other stockinged leg, revealing a bright-white petticoat – however, this is not the same type of revealing pose one would find during the can-can at Le Moulin Rouge.”



3 Nov

I’m in the early stages of writing a research paper for my art history senior seminar about the portrayal of women with beer or in bars during both the Impressionist and Art Nouveau era.  The works I’m looking at now are Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882), Picasso’s Le Moulin de Gallete (1900) and the popular Art Nouveau commercial posters.  It kind of sucks that now the popular art surrounding women and beer is restricted to buxom, semi-nude tanned girls.  I somehow found this image, and can’t remember where, that while still erotic was much more interesting artistically than the Budweiser girls.


The colors and medium are interesting as is the fact that these women aren’t placed in any given context as the other works.  In Picasso’s painting, the women are clustered in a crowded bar, mostly blurs of moving color but with staunch white almost vampire-like teeth smiling out of lurid red lips.  For whom are these women posing with their full mugs of beer, almost fully exposed?

Shiny Happy Bottles

1 Aug

I’m an Art History major, which doesn’t come close to making me an expert in art but it’s any easy way of saying I’ve always got my eyes peeled for and focused on all things visually stimulating.  It means I also like to figure out what and who is behind the art.  One of my favorite facets of seeking out and enjoying craft beer is the label.  There is something so satisfying when you find a beer that pleases all 5 senses.  That’s when I fall in love with a beer.  I fell in love with 2 beer shops in Milano, A Tutta Birra and Roybeer and came away with some great beers and great labels.  My first trip to A Tutta Birra, I almost broke my arms carrying home my bags of beer.  I stashed a few of my babies in the fridge and others in the closet where there was more room.  I showed them to anyone who would listen to me gush about my new finds.

first beer shop excursion

Here are a few of my fav-o-rite things:

Brouwerij de Molen: simple, bold, interesting, commanding, DROP DEAD SEXY (and that’s just the label!)

de molen

Three Floyds:  my heart is heavy and sad that they stopped distributing to Ohio but it makes the pleasure of getting or even seeing one that much more rewarding.  A beer named Fantabulous Resplendence needs no intro.

Three Floyds 10th Anniversary

Le Baladin:  a birreria in Italy that has some very curvaceous bottles with some funky and some somber labels.  Take for instance their celebrated Baladin Xyauyù barley wine.

Baladin Xyauyù

I could wax rhapsodic on these images for pages but would rather inspire others to keep an eye out for the beer or beers that makes all 5 senses very happy.  Cheers.

UPDATE:  Thanks to fellow ratebeerian OldMrCrow, I’ve been introduced to The Dissident.  Dude’s right, this label is great.  And it brings up another point, why is the only label artist I’ve heard of Ralph Steadman?  Does that even count!?!  He’d been famous long before Flying Dog Brewery.  Where is the talk of the people behind the labels?  This is usually our first encounter with a beer, visual — the label or the tap.  For something so primary and basic where’s the attention?

The Dissident

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