Saturday, 19 December 2020

Saturday 19th December - In Bed

 I am spending the last few days before Christmas frantically tidying the house up.  You'd think that we were hosting some sort of magnificent event, but obviously we're not in any way, shape or form.  It's just the byproduct of 2020, a year when I have had the time to do stuff.  Therefore, with only a couple weeks of this accursed ratpile of a year left, I am making the most of it and cleaning house.  The chickens are in lockdown because of bird flu, therefore I have great plans for getting the garden shipshape in the near future, but just now, it's the house I'm scrubbing.  All of that meandering leads me to a picture today of domestic comfort...

In Bed (The Kiss) (1892) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

In a comfortably rumpled bed, a couple embrace.  In the blue-grey of the sheets, the pair seem to glow with pleasure, lit within in whites, pinks and yellows.  This is just one of a series of four images of the couple, all painted around the bed.  Not only that, but it is suggested that the couple are actually two women, painted at a brothel on the Rue d'Ambroise...

In Bed (1892)

It's unusual for Snogvent that we get a series of pictures, but all four seem to include at least one of the girls, if not both (I think it's the same two lasses, just the girl on the left's long hair is sometimes hidden in the bedding).  There is an informal, relaxed cheekiness to the images that we expect from Toulouse-Lautrec, and despite being sexy, the pictures don't feel sordid or voyeuristic. 

In Bed (1893)

Maybe it's because there are four images that we don't get the normal male-gaze, peep-show aspect of some 'intimate' art.  I remember feeling really creeped out by Edward Linley Sambourne's photograph that he took of his maid sleeping, which was presumably taken without her knowledge (let alone permission). No, we get to know Lautrec's women, if only briefly, and we are included in the rosy glow of their love.  Also, unlike some of the icily perfect images of love we have seen, Lautrec shows us love in a cold climate, buried underneath patchwork quilts and sheets, with rumpled bed-hair and smiling faces.

The Kiss (1892)

I'm not sure in what order you are meant to see the pictures, but I like to read them in reverse - they started kissing on the bed then decided it was much too cold for that and also that bloke with a canvas was stood at the end of the bed again, so they went under the duvet and hid, grinning. Lautrec's interest in the prostitutes of Paris, both on and off duty, brings you to wonder what we are seeing here - is this at work or during leisure hours? Is one of these girls a client or a lover? Are both of these girls in the same business and have found romance with someone who understands the life?

Le Sofa (1895)

This is also a painting from Lautrec's brothel phase, showing two lasses, again possibly both in the same profession, or possibly client and prostitute.  This has a far more professional feel to it, the women in their stockings and barely-there (or not) underwear.  The difference between the kissing couple and these women is that there is no mistaking the profession of the women on the sofa.  In contrast, the couple in the bed  have a cheekiness and an almost prim normality.  There is no fluff-flashing, nor stocking tops, just bedspreads and rumpled hair.  The girls in the bed seem off-duty, the two on the sofa seem professional. There is something about a kiss that seems more intimate and meaningful than all the exposed pubic hair.  As Vivian Ward says in Pretty Woman, no kissing, it's too personal. 

On that note, I'm off to hoover and I'll see you all tomorrow (if you can be bothered to get out of bed)...

1 comment:

  1. Not often you do Lautrec, in fact is this maybe a first? I have loved him for years. An interesting post - you have and are making this 'accursed ratpile of a year' a lot better with your wit and wisdom! Happy Crimbo Kirsty and Family.


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