Oops, I confess I go to art openings mostly for the free booze and slick vibes. While compiling the list of examples of female of artists, I thought it would be interesting to see how male artists portrayed lesbians through the ages.
What did prick up my ears:
- Simeon Solomon (1840 – 1905) who painted "Sappho and Erinna". Solomon, a Jewish English painter, explored themes of homosexuality more openly than many of his contemporaries. At the height of his artistic career, on the 11 February 1873, Solomon was arrested with a sixty-year-old stableman in a public urinal, around the corner from Marylebone Lane Police Station. Both men were charged and found guilty of for "unlawfully attempt feloniously to commit the abominable crime of buggery" ...
After his six week detainment in the Clerkenwell House of Detention, Solomon was released in to the care of his cousin on a surety of £100, and that he promised to behave himself. Thereafter, he was admitted to two London private lunatic asylums and discharged "unimproved". Noooo! Almost a year later, Solomon was arrested in a Parisian public urinal with a male prostitute. Charged and convicted with “outrage public à la pudeur” (outrage to the public decency), Solomon served three months in a Paris jail.
Supported by friends and family, Solomon continued to work despite alcoholism, periods of chronic poverty and time spent in and out of the St. Giles Workhouse, situated in one of London’s poorest areas, where he died on 14 August 1905.
- Gustave Courbet (1819 – 1877) who painted "Le Sommeil" which was banned from being publicly displayed until 1988! Gustave Courbet was a controversial French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century France. The painting Le Sommeil was commissioned by the Ottoman diplomat Halil Şerif Pasha – aka Khalil Bey for his private collection of erotica, in Paris. Le Sommeil was inspired by Charles Baudelaire's poem "Femmes Damnees Delphine et Hippolyte" (Damned Women Delphine and Hippolyte) and depicts two naked women lying asleep on a bed entwined in an erotic embrace. It is purported that the two women are Courbet’s lover, the Irish model Joanna Hiffernan, and Constance Quéniaux a danseuse à l'Opéra. In 1872, when Le Sommeil was exhibited by a picture dealer it became the subject of a police report and was removed from display.
Courbet's most scandalous painting, however, was L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World) which daringly features a naked torso and... genitalia! There was much conjecture as to the identity of the model which has finally been revealed as Constance Quéniaux.
The woman are presumed to be Gabrielle d’Estrées, mistress of King Henry IV of France, and her sister, the Duchess de Villars sitting in a bathtub lined with silk. Sisters, really?
Artist: Unknown, ca. 1594
Jupiter disguised as the goddess Diana to seduce the nymph Callisto, who subsequently becomes pregnant! The story of originates from the poem Metamorphoses written by Ovid, 8 AD.
Artist: Peter Paul Rubens, 1613
The painting is titled Allegorie der Union der Malerei und Poesie by Italian painter Francesco Furini (c. 1600 (or 1603) – 1646). It depicts the "Muses of Painting and Poetry"; The muse of Painting is shown (on the left) holding a paintbrush while the muse of Poetry (on the right) holds a pen. The scroll on the right declares "Concordia Lumine Maior" ("Unity is stronger than light").
Artist: Francesco Furini, 1626
A popular theme: Jupiter disguised as Diana seducing the nymph Callisto. Nymphs are divine spirits from ancient Greek mythology.
Artist: Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem, 1650
Nymphs sleeping together in a communal cuddle, worn out after a day of frolicking and cavorting... aye!
Artist: Peter Lely, 1650
Amarillis, is given the role of judging whose kisses the best. Mirtillo, thwarted in his desires and desperate for access to Amarillis, disguises himself as a woman.
Artist: Jacob van Loo, 1660
The real Diana, goddess of hunting, after the seduction of Callisto by Jupiter (who disguised himself as Diana).
Artist: Pietro Liberi, 1670
Peace gives Justice a soft kiss as Truth looks on, and a cherub places a crown on the head of Justice.
Artist: Giovanni Battista Gaulli, 1672
Two Nymphs of Diana resting after a hunt. Why are right Nymphs' titties exposed?
Artist: François Boucher, 1748
A man's voyeuristic fantasy of the servant girls' dormitory. Is the right girl softly spanking another!
Artist: Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1770
Artist: Jean-Frédéric Schall, ca. 1800
Translated as "Two Women in Bed Disturbed by a Cat". For sure every one looks for the cat!
Artist: Jean-Alphonse Roehn, 1800s
The Greek Poet Sappho and the Girl from Mytilene
Artist: Nicolai Abildgaard, 1809
In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream, Helena describes her friendship with Hermia "So we grew together, Like to a double cherry... Two lovely berries moulded on one stem."
Artist: Washington Allston, 1810
Translated as "The Friends" - nude and gazing adoringly at each other. Really?
Artist: Jules-Robert Auguste, 1820
The two women symbolise the friendship between Italia and Germania.
Artist: Friedrich Overbeck, 1828
Is she teaching the girl how to kiss boys?
Artist: Unknown, 1837
Artist: Jean-Alphonse Roehn, 1850s
The poses and glances, the promiscuity of the languid bodies creates a harem atmosphere.
Artist: Theodore Chasseriau, 1853
Sappho embraces poet Erinna in a garden at Mytilene, on Lesbos.
Artist: Simeon Solomon (Gay), 1864
In 1872, Le Sommeil became the subject of a police report and was removed from display, and banned until 1988.
Artist: Gustave Courbet, 1866
The red-haired girl on the right has pricked herself with a rose thorn and leans toward her friend who takes her hand to remove the thorn.
Artist: James Sant, 1887
Madam is at her club, where women are playing poker, drinking, and smoking.
Artist: Albert Guillaume, 1892
Toulouse-Lautrec made many paintings and drawings inspired by life in Parisian brothels.
Artist: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1895
"... a true lesbian was either a brunette or a redhead (red being the epitome of artificiality), and thus golden hair was left to the passive, willing victim." Nicole G. Albert
Artist: Tadeusz Styka, 1908
More like two fairies about to kiss!
Artist: Hans Zatzka, 1930s