Deep shame and wild abandon
I've recently become quite obsessive about the art of Auguste Rodin. Luckily Southampton Art Gallery has several of his sculptures on show. There is a work called 'Crouching Woman' which seems like an almost impossible figure. There is something almost frog like about the pose, although much like many of Rodin's female figures, there is something very earthy, uninhibited and intimate about it. Its alternative title is 'Lust' and he does indeed seem to rejoice in the female form in a very real way.
Rodin's Eve, a version of which is also at Southampton, was modelled by his some time mistress and much underrated artist, Gwen John. Unlike the majority of his female figures, this shows a different side to womanhood, a deep shame and sadness. Eve is ashamed of our gaze at her naked body, she tries to hide herself.
There has been much discussion about the way women are portrayed in art, where women are often seen as either saints or sinners, as pious or wanton. The reality in life as well as in art is often somewhere in the middle. Rodin himself does seem to be very honest in his depiction of the female form. He was known as somewhat of a womaniser in his lifetime, but his love of the female form doesn't always fit into neat categories. Even the figure of Eve is beautiful and sensual, even if she shows her shame.
Just behind the figure of Eve is a very different figure, in Clipsham stone. It is called Music in the Trees, by Josephine Alys de Vasconcellos. The style is redolent of art deco sculpture and shows a rather different portrayal of the female nude. Here she is strong, neither saint nor sinner, and very much part of nature.
I was very pleased at the juxtaposition of the two works, showing deep shame and wild abandon within a small corner of the hall. I like to think it questions our often limited views of women and their portrayal in art.