Sex And Sexuality In Art English Literature Essay

Published:

Sex has always been present in art from its earliest form of cave paintings right through to modern art of today its used to represent human figure, male and female, to show passion towards two people or to show fertility. Sex is often seen with violence too. During the early renaissance which spanned from the 14th to the 17th century, art became a method of education with a lot of scientific studies of the body and architecture. Many commissions came from the church who wanted artists to paint religious scenes of Jesus and stories from the bible. Masaccio was one of the earliest painters of the renaissance who pushed the boundaries to represent human figure and perspective but without the use of nudity. In one of his paintings he shows Adam and Eve nude however fig leaves are placed over there genitals. This was not uncommon.

Not only was the renaissance dominated with male figureheads as working artists, philosophers, poets and scientists, but just as equally the male body was used to study. Michelangelo painted and sculpted the male figure quite a lot during his life. He did however also paint the female nude along with Da-Vinci and eventually these preconceptions started to be challenged. Michelangelo and Da-Vinci both made continuous studies of the male body but painted them in very intimate, voluptuous method presenting them in a way that should be lusted. It is believed that both of these artists would have been homosexual. This of cause at that time was completely unacceptable and immoral.

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

Professional

Essay Writers

Lady Using Tablet

Get your grade
or your money back

using our Essay Writing Service!

Essay Writing Service

This led me onto modern artists that show sexuality in other ways such as Francis Bacon. I went to Tate Britain in London and was amazed by the exhibit. Being able to walk through and become a part of bacons world felt like I was staring down the barrel of a gun ready to shoot. What struck me the most was how raw his paintings where. Meat like textures and violence all around you if you could strip away the gallery walls you would understand the world he lived in is still alive and well. In many of bacons work he represents the human figure in a violent, distorted view using heavy layering and using a limited pallet of rich, dark colours. He painted quite a lot of men and would often paint over the genitals to strip the figure of gender or identity, perhaps bacon was trying to communicate a struggle with his identity and sexuality. Bacon worked in a time when homosexuality was unacceptable especially in catholic Ireland.

Its clear bacon was forever struggling with his demons he would constantly drink and hardly ever left his home which was also his studio. A big influence on Bacon was a man named George Dyer who was to become bacons muse later, his lover. This is very noticeable in bacons paintings of Dyer which are often painted in a smooth, delicate way showing a love between the two men. The choice of delicate colours dark reds, pinks and blues resonated off the canvas.

A painting of George Dyer - Study for Head of George Dyer (1967)

On bacons 'Reclining Woman' I saw at Tate Liverpool I noticed that the reclining figure had appeared to have been cut out maybe from a separate painting and fixed onto the new canvas with a painted background. I thought this was very interesting and led me to think why he may have done this. I began to think and came up with two possible reasons, perhaps he did not like or was not happy with the painting that the reclining figure had come from but did like the actual figure so he decided to use a different background or maybe he used the figure to cover up something. What ever the reason one thing is clear that on this piece he has distorted the figure so much there is no longer a gender. I did read the information blurb that said the figure was originally male but he had removed the genitalia by over working and layering and called the piece 'Reclining Woman'. The piece keeps in with bacons style of distorting figure and making the human form look like nothing more than meat to be consumed by another. The bacon exhibit was a real eye opener for me not only about the works but also the man I feel a connection with bacon and will remember his legacy always he remains one of the worlds greatest painters and most influential of artists.

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

Comprehensive

Writing Services

Lady Using Tablet

Plagiarism-free
Always on Time

Marked to Standard

Order Now

Looking at Hans Bellmers work you almost become attracted and repelled by his explicit use of sexual imagery not only in his paintings but especially in his dolls series. Bellmer created several dolls with fragmented bodies that often could fit together in different ways and were often put into erotic arrangement. He created sexual images of the female body distorted, dismembered and often in fetish scenarios. Using a narrative format he photographed the dolls in a range of grotesque sexual positions. The images conveyed were of death, decay, abuse and the destruction of innocence. The dolls were created between 1939 and 1949, Nazi popularity was growing so possibly as an act of defiance towards Hitler and the Nazi party he created the dolls almost to show how the new dictator acted towards some of his people.

Many of the dolls seem to show contorted sexual forms that represent the bodies of young pubescent girls. It is clear looking at Bellmer's 'The doll' at Tate Liverpool that the piece has very strong sexual language. It shows a small headless body that looks like comes in three parts a top, middle and bottom. The doll has what looks like two vaginas, one at the top of the doll then a small bloated stomach and then another vagina, i think the stomach may symbolise fertility.

The word doll to me is a visual representation of a human or animal that can be controlled and does not have free will or have the ability to answer for its self. Neither do dolls have any conscious feelings they are completely hollow made only to look like ourselves. I think this piece represents bellmers idea of perfection in a sexual partner used as nothing more than to give pleasure. This 'being' is all sex and no head. I believe this piece has a lot to do with the destroying of innocence and sexual abuse, I know its important when looking at art to understand what was going on at that particular time and if the time is having any effect on the artist and/or there work. Perhaps it was something that happened in Bellmer's childhood which I saw on a documentary about sculpture. Apparently belmers childhood was a very dark one and his father could be quiet abusive. You have to of course take into account the fascist regime that was The Nazi Party becoming a very strong hold on Germany and its people.

To me this work is very disturbing and grotesque but I can also find it very interesting you can read so much into it. Maybe in some way bellmer tried to make people understand how he felt and misunderstood or simply just to shock, as a lot of people find this particular piece very offensive and un-necessary. This particular representation of the human figure how ever sexual shows to me how humans only have sex for pleasure and to reproduce. The doll seems to have a stomach possibly for a potential baby to grow but ironically dolls cannot reproduce just in the same way pubescent children cant.

Looking at Sarah Lucas's piece 'Beyond the pleasure principle' Your attention is immideatly drawn the piece is riveted with sexual interpretation about relationships between men and women sourly based on sex. Both genders are represented using household objects to produce a metaphor for actual sexual activity. Both are lying on top of a sort of mattress like object and the use of common objects to represent the different sexes has very cunningly being done of course sarah lucas knows all to well how to push these kinds of buttons in people.

The male has simply been represented using a giant industrial baton light which is clear represents a penis, also another pair of lights hang below it to represent testicles. The light is piercing through the mattress as if to show some sort of penetration. I think the choice of light is also interesting not only does it make the piece more eye catching but it has its own language behind it for example industrial or builders and labour work which is often associated with being the work of a man. The female form has a delicate wire frame with two small lamp bulbs to show breasts and a bucket for a groin/vagina area. There is a red light situated inside the bucket I think this is to represent menstruation and fertility but it also led me to think of prostitution which is often associated with red lights the infamous 'Red light district' and promiscuity. The colour red is also used to express love or anger which adds more depth to the piece the whole work sits above a coffin made from cardboard. The title of this piece refers to a statement the psychologist Sigmund Freud made about the 'drive for life is matched by an equal and opposite drive for death, so that pleasure is bound up with destruction. This piece over all makes a bold statement and with Sarah Lucas's clever whit and smart use of household objects personifies both male and female roles as an equal contribution to the destruction of any form whether it be relationship or each other.

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

This Essay is

a Student's Work

Lady Using Tablet

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Examples of our work

Another piece of art i have looked at is titled Nue Couchee by American artist Dorothea Tanning. This piece of sculpture has a real sence of humanity and honesty to it. Like Hans Bellmers doll this piece has the look of a doll or of something that can be controlled however in this work I see this 'doll' having more of a human quality to it and seems to have an almost independence. The contorted body shape is reminiscent of embrace or a wanting. This piece certainly is very sensual the limbs of this sculpture are so perfectly entwined that you could imagine or see the scene of lovers. As you analyse this piece you are aware of the many symbols within this piece the most striking of these being the suggested spine with the use of table tennis balls. I find this very interesting, strength and stability are suggested here. But the colour and material used can be related to Vulnerability. The idea that this piece is able to turn away from the viewer as an act of privacy. Nue Couche with its Large bottom maybe a reference to Tannings representation of the female form and sexuality. I don't think the fact that she is a woman has anything to do with the way she has produced this work. Most of Tannings notable works are surreal paintings but it was during the late 60's early 70's that she made a number of cloth sculptures. Other artists in this period made sculptures evoking bodily forms and using unconventional materials, but their example, if known, was irrelevant to Tanning. Dorothea's aim was to make three-dimensional avatars of her painted universe. One of the very earliest of her sculptures, Pincushion to Serve as a Fetish (1965) resembles no known form but, to quote Tanning, is 'bristling with images'. Its curves, protuberances and orifices (which include a domestic plastic funnel) suggest a lively yet fertile creature. But the white lines on the black velvet, and with the pins pushed into it, hint also at magic or ritual reminiscent of voodoo. A few years later Tanning began sculpture-making, focusing on transformed or imagined bodies. Using wool to stuff and pink crpe or grey tweed to cover them, Tanning created 20 or so fragile creatures that flaunt an assumed sexuality or couple with furniture.

Many paintings that have depicted sexuality, sexual scenes or references to an artists own sexuality have always been popular or the most talked about. Sex is a part of us. There are always going to be sexual reference in what ever we do, Art, Music, poetry.

There have also been many people in the art world who's sexuality is thrown into context of either bizarre or unorthodox for some reason many artists choose to keep there sexuality private but cant help but show it through there work. Does it always have to be the issue in someone's life? Are they an artist or a Gay artist? I went to the Homotopia show at The Urban Contemporary Centre and i was really impressed with some of the work but also found some of it a little distasteful. Homotopia is liverpools celebration of 'Queer Culture' 2008 was especially big because of the capital of culture buzz. Many works from gay and lesbian artists are exhibited there. This year saw Tom of finlands work of over the top, butch, camp stereotype sketches of men in tight pants with large crotches. I found these as just a joke really and not to be taken to seriously. There is so much eroticism there that they have been known to cause alot of offence. Maybe this is one way why i like them but mainly for that reason. Tom of finland has been named a legendary gay artist at this show there were 25 major works all on paper. Each sketch was very homoerotic and explicit some showing graphic sexual scenes. I wasnt impressed by the over working on the sketches and it looked like too much had gone into the work too much shading and the results look somewhat amateurish. I did find the paintings of Holly Woodlawn by Sadie Lee exceptionally beautiful because they look so personal almost in the same way lucian freud had once painted lee bowery another gay icon and superstar but of course Lee's paintings of Woodlawn are not as earthed and personal there still seems to be some glitz left so to speak.