Friday, March 4, 2011

Frolicking nymphs by Paul-Albert Laurens

The Sea Nymphs

At at time when the portrayal of nude women as such was not permissable in public display, simply ensuring that the subject had a classical or mythological theme magically transformed them into an acceptable subject.

Perhaps the best (or worst) example of this is the painting The Sea Nymphs by Paul-Albert Laurens.  Really there is nothing even faintly classical about this painting (no chained Prometheus in evidence, for example); it is simply two naked girls at the edge of the sea.  Not that this is a bad thing!

Catching the Waves

In fact Laurens must have thought it was a good enough thing to produce a very similar painting Catching the Waves.  The fact that this painting does not rejoice in a classical sounding title and that the young ladies are physicallly in much closer contact suggests that it was painted for a gentleman collector rather than for public display although, it has to be said, that the French were rather more relaxed about such subjects than the British.

Paul-Albert Laurens, self portrait with family (1923)

Paul-Albert Laurens (1870-1934) was the son of the painter Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921).  His younger brother, Jean-Pierre Laurens (1875-1932) became a painter too.  Laurens, who was a friend of Andre Gide, later was professor of drawing at the Polytechnic School from 1919 until 1938.  Like a number of other Franch artists he did a lot of work on camouflage schemes during World War 1.