Nov 20, 2016

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes: Beefcake Art in the Third Republic

Here's another painting I found at the Art Institute of Chicago.  The Fisherman's Family (1881), by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.

Ok, there's a bare-breasted woman, a baby, and an old guy sleeping on the rocky beach, but the central figure is a hot fisherman, naked, a net hiding his penis.

Did this Chavannes have a gay connection?

Born in 1824, he became "the painter of France" during the Third Republic, commissioned for murals across the country.  He drew on the romantic movement of his youth, but he was at heart a symbolist, depicting modern French identity with Classical and Biblical motis.







Like Esau Returning from the Hunt (1859), a common motif in art, but here the men are all naked.
















He painted figures of naked women, too, but male nudity is often present in his work, often in unexpected places.  In The Beheading of John the Baptist (1859), the Christlike John the Baptist is about to be decapitated by a surprisingly muscular Moor.










In Return of the Prodigal Son (1879), we don't actually see the prodigal son in the Biblical parable, just a lot of naked men working at various tasks.

In 1895, Chavannes married his friend of four decades, Princess Marie Cantacuzene.  They both died the following year.

Of course, he probably had lovers during his life.  Male, female, or both, who can say?