The Male Body in Nineteenth Centure European Art - The Courtauld Institute of Art

The Male Body in Nineteenth Centure European Art

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The Male Body in Nineteenth Centure European Art


Dr Satish Padiyar

The course focuses on visual depictions of the male body in nineteenth-century art, in the work of David, Canova, Ingres, Géricault, Courbet, Manet, Caillebotte, and others.

The political and theoretical challenges of recent feminism have provoked a range of cultural responses about men and masculinity. In particular, since the 1990s there has been continuing debate about whether masculinity is irrevocably ‘in crisis’, due to the erosion of once-secure gender boundaries, sexual identities and roles.

From this contemporary perspective, the course will address a number of questions:

  • How might we understand the shift in nineteenth-century history paintings from homoerotically charged androgynous male nudes to ones of hyper-inflated masculinity
  • What happens to the represented classical body itself in the face of a powerful emerging concentration on modernity and modern life

The course will also focus on depictions of the aestheticized male body in relation to questions of colonialism and racialised others, the homosocial and military ethos, the history of sexuality, drawing and anatomy, fashion and consumption.

While focusing primarily on French painting of the period, attention will also be paid to the corporeal aesthetic of nineteenth-century sculptors Canova and Thorwaldsen, Leighton and Rodin; and to late nineteenth-century photography of the male nude.

This course will be of special interest to those wishing to engage with current theories of self, sexuality, desire and vision, as articulated by Judith Butler, Jacques Lacan, Eve Sedgwick, Kaja Silverman, and Klaus Theweleit.

Recent MA Dissertation subjects for this Special Option have included:

  • The Noise of the Real transgressing the boundaries of the Symbolic in Cézanne’s Baigneurs (1890-94)
  • Yearning for Collectivity strategies of artistic group representation in nineteenth-century France
  • Becoming Horse the transgressive corporeality of horse and human in the work of Theodor Géricault
  • Jean-Léon Gérôme, his orientalism and the questioning of identities
  • The Fantastic Hand sensual surfaces in the art of Canova and Ingres
Courtauld Course Lecturer

About the lecturer

Satish Padiyar was educated at University College London, where he gained his PhD (1999), working with Helen Weston and Adrian Rifkin. He taught at the University of Leeds and at University College London, and was the recipient of a J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship, before joining The Courtauld as Visiting Lecturer in 2005. He worked as chief curator on The Triumph of Eros: Art and Seduction in 18th Century France, at the Hermitage Rooms, London, in 2006. He was appointed Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century European Art in 2008.

Recent areas of work include the history of sculpture, European neoclassical painting, the relation between art and philosophy, and critical theoretical approaches to the history of art. An interest in rethinking European neoclassical painting and sculpture with queer, feminist, psychoanalytic and Marxist theory culminated in his book Chains. David, Canova, and the Fall of the Public Hero in Postrevolutionary France (2007), reviewed in The Burlington Magazine, Art History, Oxford Art Journal, and The Journal of Modern History. The book offers a fresh account of European Neoclassicisms of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, by attending to questions about the male body, notions of self, Kantian aesthetics, and sexuality. He is currently researching and preparing a book on the senses of freedom, or ‘free agency’, in European modern art, from Fragonard to Twombly, c. 1750 – 1960, which will include chapters on the art of David, Courbet, Cézanne and Picasso. He is writing a commissioned monograph on Jean-Honoré Fragonard, for completion in 2016.

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