Monthly Archives: August 2012

Edward Degas and his Ballerinas


Edward Degas story starts out as one of those lovely “Dad wanted me to go to law school but I said ‘Nay Father. Art is my life!'” type affairs.

Son of Banker Augustin De Gas, Degas first act of defiance was to change his last name to something slightly less pretentious sounding. After this, it was to pursue art. This was all very early in his life, and by the time he was 18 he’d turned his bedroom into a studio for his paintings. It was after this, that Dad told him to go to law school, which like a dutiful son, he did. He enrolled at the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris in 1853, but didn’t really put much effort into his studies. Two years later, in 1855 Degas met fellow French artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Now, who of my few loyal followers recognises that name? We spoke a little bit about Ingres a few weeks ago in the post about Odalisque art. Degas was very taken with Ingres, who had told him to “Draw lines, young man, many lines”. Inspired, Degas went to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts later that year (Ecole des Beaux-Arts is still a very influential art school in Paris). Here, Degas studied with Louis Lamothe (1822 – 1869). After this, in 1856, he moved to Italy and started copying some of the great works by people such as Michelangelo and Raphael, etc.

Degas continued to copy pictures and began to make a healthy living as a copyist whilst working on original works. He began working on studies of horses. His painting Scene from the Steeplechase: the Fallen Jockey marked a departure from the more traditional history paintings, to more contemporary subject matters. This change was partly inspired by another  French buddy of Degas called Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883). This was a very important moment in Degas artistic career when he began to draw scenes from real life. These included many scenes of horse tracks and, of course, of ballerinas. This may seem pretty standard now, but depicting scenes from everyday life was quite rare at the time.

Degas is sometimes called the ‘Painter of dancing girls’. There are a few reasons for his obsession. Some, believe it to be voyeuristic, but others have disputed this claim. It’s a fact that dancers and models at the time often worked as prostitutes on the side, due to poor wages. It is almost certain that Degas did not partake of any of this, but there are plenty of nude pictures that would have been modeled by these girls. There are also stories of him making his models stand in painful positions for hours on end. Perhaps there was some sort of cruel satisfaction to be had this way. There’s also the possibility that this was purposeful, and Degas was making a point about the physical harm that ballerinas do themselves in the pursuit to master their discipline. All Degas wrote himself on the subject was;

It has never occurred to them that my chief interest in dancers lies in rendering movement and painting pretty clothes.

Two Dancers in the Studio 1

Degas was a huge fan of the opera and ballet and Paul Trachtman writes; ‘At the ballet Degas found a world that excited both his taste for classical beauty and his eye for modern realism.’ He used the ballet as a way to create new forms of painting that could describe fluidity and movement. The ballerinas are probably Degas most famous and well received works.

In 1870 Degas joined the National Guard with the start of the Franco-Prussian War. For obvious reasons, Degas didn’t do too much painting during this time, and what’s worse, he developed a defect in his eyesight, which continued to bug him for the rest of his life.

The war ended in 1872 and Degas stayed in Louisiana with some family members for a year. During this time he painted a number of works depicting family members. This painting below (painted during this time) was the only one of his works to be bought by a museum during his life.

In 1874 (by which time Degas was back in Paris) his father died. Then it came to light that Degas brother had been a bit careless with his monies. To keep the family afloat (and respectable) financially, Degas sold his house and art collection. For the first time in his life, Degas was actually dependant on his art sales to live. He stopped doing profitless exhibitions, and joined a group of artists who were intent on making a society for independent exhibitions. The exhibitions these guys were putting on quickly became known as ‘Impressionist Exhibitions’. Even though Degas hated the title he took a lead role in the Imperialists exhibitions.

As I said, Degas hated the title, and the reputation the Imperialists had. He was pretty public about this opinion which didn’t really do him any favours in the group. Some people say that he was actually as anti-Impressionist as some of the critics were. His style and method of work were also not very Impressionist. He kept to his darker paint pallet rather than adopting the bright colours of the Impressionists and he always worked indoors. In fact, he often made fun of the Impressionists for their tendency to paint outdoors.

He also insisted on including some more traditional painters in the exhibitions. All of this helped to pull the group apart and they disbanded in 1886. By this time though, Degas was making a reasonable living from his art.

Unfortunately Degas eyesight remained problematic and got much worse as he grew old. As a way to combat this, Degas started to sculpt. He started making wax figures, possibly as a way to work on something that he could mould and feel now that his vision was failing. The most famous sculpture of Degas isThe Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer. It’s a wax sculpture that stands at 39 inches and is adorned in real clothes – a tutu and ribbon for the hair (which is a wig). The figure is based on a real dancer called Marie van Goethem, who was sometimes referred to as ‘little rat’. The reception of her sculpture isn’t much better and it was often referred to as being ugly. This ugliness at the time was also linked to the idea of loose morels, and questions of Degas sexuality and voyeuristic leanings are again brought into question.

One thing I’d like to point out which I think is wonderful, is that when Degas made the original, he created a skeleton out of paintbrushes! Isn’t that great? I love the idea that she was completely made up of his own art tools. You can still see this sculpture nowadays, but mostly only in brass reproductions.

Self Portrait

And here’s where it all gets a little depressing…

As he grew older, Degas secluded himself from many people because apparently he believed that artists can’t have personal lives. After this, in the early 1890’s it became apparent that Degas had certain antisemitic qualities. This obviously caused all his Jewish friends to break contact with him, and Degas became very lonely. He stopped painting in 1912 and was thereafter forced to leave his long term home due to demolition. He moved to quarters on the boulevard de Clichy. He didn’t marry, his eyesight got worse and he died, half blind, wandering the streets of Paris in 1917.

All of these artists have such morbid ends…I’m hoping to find some artists who didn’t die alone or disease ridden soon, or else I might start to question my own life decisions.

To check out Degas’ complete works check out this great site.
Next up: Poker playing Dogs.


Two weeks in Edinburgh


 It was seven am by the time I arrived in Edinburgh. The night of travel was mostly sleepless, but filled with momentary excursions into half lucid dreams. From these, I was usually awakened as the coach lurched and sent my head crashing into the window, knocking the oncoming dreams off course. If anything can be said for the Mega-bus, it’s that it is at least persistent in keeping you as uncomfortable as possible. Unfortunately, the time is nearing when I have to get back on this miserable bus for another 9/10 hours on my way back to London.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, surrounded by rolling hills and with its very own castle on top of a mountain, situated right in the middle of the city. It has a very rich history and is also an incredibly important cultural centre. One could be excused for saying that the city has a distinctly European feel about it. Much more so than most British cities I have been to.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh during August though, is not just a city, but is a city-wide event in which people from all walks in life come together to celebrate art in all its varieties. Home to the Edinburgh International Festival, the city is alive with theatre, literature, dance, opera, comedy, film, music, visual arts, circus and every other art related activity known to man.

The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) was first set up in 1947 and has two named beings to thank for its genesis. One is a horse called Ocean Swell. Ocean selflessly gave up its winnings from the 1944 Derby and the 1946 Ascot Gold Cup to the wife of his owner, who helped fund the first EIF. The other is Rudolf Bing, a refugee from the Nazis, who as soon as the war ended, set up the EIF as a way to connect people though our mutual love of art, after the fragmenting affect of the war.

From then, the EIF has only gone from strength to strength, and has gotten much larger. It now encompasses a number of other festivals, including the International Book Festival, the Military Tattoo and of course the Festival Fringe.

 The Fringe Festival apparently began in the same year as the EIF, when a bunch of theatre groups turned up uninvited to perform. Since then, the Fringe has grown so large that most people think this is the festival. Apparently, it’s now the worlds largest arts festival. This year, there are 2,695 shows from 47 countries. These take place all over the city in 279 venues. The Fringe doesn’t disallow any performances, meaning there is a varied degree of talent, styles, genres and forms to be had.

It all sounds pretty awesome, right? But not everyone thinks so. In recent years, the number of stand-up comedy acts have dwarfed most other genres, and even though these have now become the Edinburgh Comedy Festival, many people seem to consider the Fringe bastardised. In The Arts Journal Allan Massie writes;

“Edinburgh in August has now become a place for stand-up comedy, where reputations are made and prizes are won. This is a far cry from the ideals of 1947, an expression of culture more consumerist than uplifting. But that’s how it is. That’s where we are.”

Massie certainly isn’t alone when he calls for a reassessment of the festival, looking back at the ‘why’ behind the first EIF.

Now, I’m not really a fan of stand-up comedy but I do think some stand-up comics are very smart indeed, and sometimes, just sometimes they say something that matters. I certainly wouldn’t blame them for the downfall of culture in Edinburgh. What I will say though; walking down the royal mile, one is made very aware that the whole thing is a bit of a money making machine at the moment. Art has been commercialised to an extent I’ve not encountered before. It’s also super bitchy…But maybe that’s just what happens when you put this many theatre people together…

Whether you buy into it or not, this conflict of opinions does exist, and through it, a few pockets have appeared throughout the city, which wish to keep the spirit 1947 alive. One such pocket is the Summerhall venue.

Summerhall is Edinburgh’s newest arts venue. Bought for a pretty reasonable £4 million by one Robert McDowell, the former ‘Royal Dick Veterinary University’ has been turned into a centre for the arts. With over 500 rooms, Summerhall is home to a number of performance areas, art exhibitions, an in-house printing and publishing office (where the Arts Journal came from), a brewery, its own tv station and much more. What’s beautiful about Summerhall, is that because it’s privately owned the building is being kept pretty much as is. It’s not being made up to actually look like a art gallery, but is being aloud to keep its character. McDowell says that it is still a vet school. It’s important Summerhall keeps this character because it ” is to be both a forum for interdisciplinary experimentation and a venue for research and education as well as performance”. This shows in the fact that Rose Bruford College is about to open it’s first ‘campus abroad’ at Summerhall.

I was here last year, the first year for Summerhall, and thought it was a pretty cool venue then. This year, it has come on leaps and bounds, and there’s still work to be done. Of course, what makes Summerhall stand out is the quality of the acts. I have seen some truly great shows in the last 2 weeks. So many, that it would take far too long to write about them all here – and this post is already about a week late!

Instead, I’ll talk a little bit about the Polska Arts season here.

Polska Arts is a fantastic season of – guess what? Polish Art. Put together by the Adam Mickiewics Institute in Poznan (which I visited earlier this year), Polska Arts showcases a huge variation of works at Summerhall. Here we have the likes of Teatr Tsar with their show Caesarian Section: Essays on Suicide (which was awarded a Herold Angel Award last week) and Song of the Goat with Songs of Lear and much more.There’s also some spectacular outdoor shows from Teatr Biuro Podróży and KTO theatre in the Old College Quad.

The two shows I have enjoyed the most from Plska Arts are:

neTTheatre’s Puppet: Book of Splendour

Like my show Pages from the Book of…, this work was inspired by Kantor. Likening the story of The Book of Job to the life of Kantor, the show was visually stunning and incredibly dense. Perhaps too dense at times, as the narrative (if such a thing existed) was lost, twisted, ripped apart and scattered to the wind before the end of the show. Puppet: Book of Splendour is a highly visual and intelligent show. The director, a disembodied voice guides us through the production and makes light of the seriousness of the production. He also subverts what is considered to be trademarks of Polish art, in a highly intelligent and funny way. At one point he jokes saying “People have said the second part of the performance is boring. So, when you are bored you know it’s the second part.” Unfortunately, he was not joking, I did get bored. Very much so. I think the biggest problem with this show was that it was not edited well. There was so much going on, so many images and metaphors that it lost the attention of the audience. Through its flaws though, I really found the show very interesting and I’d love to connect with neTTheatre at some point.

Future Tales: Sierakowski by Komuna//Warszawa. 

Future Tales was absolutely mad. It tells the story of four possible futures for Sławomir Sierakowski, the most significant contemporary Polish left-wing intellectual, according to different writers/philosophers. For example, in one possible future, Sierakowski will become a Buddhist in 2019 and die in 2074, in another future according to H.G. Wells, Sierakowski will survive a Martian invasion and later be digitally immortalised. The show is highly political and very satirical. It’s an absurd lecture interspersed with bizarre punk rock songs, where what is being said doesn’t always correspond with what we are seeing. Something to note is the use of the language in this piece. Polish is a very beautiful language, and in this work I realised just how musical it can be. Just repeating a single phrase seven times becomes poetry.

It’s a great show. Utterly bonkers. But great.

The Polska Arts program is soooo good! So good in fact that I’ve been cheerfully collecting badges with the Listen, See, Touch logo’s on, pretending to be part of the program.

Other honourable mentions at this years Fringe:

Don Quixote! Don Quixote! by Panta Rei Theatre Collective.

Telling the story of Don Quixote, the show is a spectacular excursion into a world of madness and hallucination. This modest show is full of visual flare and some stunning performances. Despite being told in two different languages through the lens of a delusional mind, the story is never lost on us and is at once funny, touching and at times haunting.

Dead Memory House by Theatre Corsair.

This three woman company creates a space in which we are allowed to feel comfortable and then almost instantly make it known that we are not welcome. The show, set in a house belonging to these three girls, gives us an insight into the lives and psychology of the girls. The audience are included in the action, but are made to feel that they are witnessing the ghosts of the past, some well known, some secret. This is a cleaver and innovative character study in which we are given a brief glance into the lives memories of these girls.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour.

Well, I’m not sure…but this might be one of the most important plays I have ever seen.

I think the best justice I can do for the show is to keep quiet about what it is. Instead I will just tell you that you should go and see it. I suspect that one day, given the right circumstances, this play could change the lives of an entire audience.

Well, I hope this has given you a bit of an insight into my experience at the Edinburgh Fringe. Our show has been going well, and we have gathered a nice collection of 4* reviews. Find the links below if you’re interested and a link to a video about us.


Broadway Baby

Three Weeks

This one is a bit special, written by the lovely Jane Frere who interviewed me about the show.

The video

I’m feeling nice and inspired after this trip, so I’m hoping to get on this blog a bit more next week. Tomorrow is my birthday, but considering I will be performing for half the day and fighting with the Mega-Bus for the other half, I’m going to postpone it to the 25th. I plan to spend this day at home in bed. So after this, I will attack the blog and start trying to make a dent in my book. See you next week.


First Impressions


A recent post on Cristian Mihai’s blog (which you really ought look at) pointed out the importance of a good book cover. Of course somebody commented by citing the phrase ‘never judge a book by its cover’. This got me thinking: I do judge books by their cover. Often. Always in fact. The cover and the title. If these are bad or uninteresting I won’t read the book. I think most people are the same in this. This is because of another little phrase: ‘First impressions are the most important’.

If not the most important, first impressions are certainly the strongest.

This is true for mostly everything. If your first impression of a person is that they’re a douche, then it takes a fair amount of convincing to make you think otherwise.

Tadeusz Kantor

First impressions are very important. It’s a very simple, natural thing to go with your gut reaction and make a decision about a thing right away.

Sometimes it’s wrong. The book with the fantastic cover art turns out to be crap. But sometimes the book is just as good as the cover made it out to be. In the end, it’s the first impression that lasts.

I find this especially true with art. If I see a painting and the first thoughts and ideas I have about it lead me to make a certain analysis, take for example Rembrandt’s ‘Girl in the Picture Frame’ or the whole ‘ Women with Mirrors’ thing. No matter how much I read up and learn about the piece, there is still a part of my first impression that lasts.

That’s why, when I write about art on this blog, be it painting, theatre or cartoon, I try to approach them from a relatively first impressionable basis (does that wording work?).

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always read a bit about the author and the work or ideologies behind it, so that I can make educated guesses and search for deeper meanings within my first impression.

I also think that first impressions often come from a more creative part of our brain – the part that makes us want to be painters, writers or actors. The part that made Bruno Schulz see a woman’s shoe as a sinister symbol rather than simple footwear. The part that makes a child believe he is a king when he stands on higher ground than his friend.

So when we see art, we instantly try to decide what it means to us, and in doing so we create a context or form that works for our own understanding of the work. In this way art becomes about a dialogue between artist, art and spectator. Art is not just a picture on a wall. Art is meaning, transferred from the artist into whatever medium s/he works with, and then transformed by the spectator. This process is art – not the picture itself.

So trust your first impressions, because they’re the most important and the longest lasting.

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION TIME! There are two pictures in this post. Both by very, very important Polish artists, Tadeusz Kantor and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. I’d love to hear your first impressions of these pictures. What do they mean to you? What images do they invoke?


An update on my life.

My show Pages from the Book of… is currently running at the Summerhall venue is Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. If you happen to be around Edinburgh, do come and see us. And let me know, so we can meet. We’re on in the Main Hall at 3pm everyday, until the 24th.

For now though – here is a review of our opening night. I will write about the Fringe and specifically Summerhall in the next few days or so!

Women with Mirrors


So the other day I was talking about Odalisque paintings. Something thing I have noticed about these paintings is the reoccurring image of the girls studying themselves in the mirror. So I wanted to think about this a little bit, and some of the possible ideas behind it.

I think we probably need to look at this from a couple of different points of view: What it may mean to a male audience – What it may mean to a female audience – Some wider ideas regarding the reflected image.

I suppose one level of interpretation could be that these women, who are usually high-born and glamorous, are working to perfect their image for the head of the household. It makes sense as the woman portrayed are often concubines or odalisques who’s job would involve seduction and pleasure giving. Which means the women depicted lounging about and looking in mirrors, are in fact working to perfect their craft.

On this theme, there could also be a point where this image is a reference to the painter and the audience themselves. In drawing these women, some painters were trying to study and reproduce the female figure. Like Ingres, some may have been searching for the ‘ideal female form’. The woman in the picture is studying her own figure, searching for imperfections – the same way as the painter is. This also reflects the spectators intention study the figure, albeit for different reasons. So, if the mirror reflects us then it becomes a gendered object of sorts. In the example above, the mirror becomes male.If this is the case, then the female figure is posing for the male mirror, and seeing herself reflected in him. This also get interesting if we look a little bit at what Jacques Lacan has to say about mirrors and the reflected image. Lacan (1901- 1981) was a French psychoanalyst, psychiatrist and philosopher. One of his most famous ideas is called ‘The Mirror Stage’. From what I understand, the Mirror Stage refers to a moment in life when a person looks in the mirror and identifies themselves with the image reflected. But the image reflected is in truth not an accurate portrayal, instead it’s a sort of perfect version of the self. A version that we aspire to be, because it is free of all the chaotic, emotional complications that the real person is full of.

There’s a lot of ‘reflected woman’ images in film noir – and a lot of links between film noir and the concept of the male gaze.

So maybe – if the mirror represents the male gaze, and the reflection represents the ideal image that the woman should aspire to – then the work itself becomes about striving to achieve perfection, as set out by the artist. Which I suppose makes them a little bit like this:

Lavin advertising campaign ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall’
Model – Iselin Steiro
Photographer – Steven Meisel

Now lets try to look at this from another point of view.

Many of the images portraying women with mirrors are a bit like this one, and the one at the top of this post. Do you notice anything? Or more to the point, what don’t you notice? Well, what I noticed is that we don’t actually see the reflection.

This means that the ‘ideal image’ we’ve been talking about is a mystery to us, and can only be seen by the woman in the picture. She can see what we cannot. Like the way that what actually goes on in a Harem or our friends sleep-over parties is a mystery to us (a secret even), so is the woman’s reflection. This reflection could now symbolise the ideal image of her or a ‘truthful’ image – Her real self, along with her thoughts, opinions, etc. So in many ways it could be seen as being rather empowering in this way. The fact that no matter how much we study the surface, much remains hidden from us. What exactly is she looking at and why? I don’t know.

Just as a quick sideline – In Orientalism the East is often portrayed as either Female or Feminine (there is a difference). The feminine is seen as being mysterious, exotic and lovely which is why the male is attracted to her. All of these Odalisque images really seem to carry this idea within them. The very idea of the Harem seems to go towards explaining where some of these ideas came from.

I did an acting course in Italy about this time last year, and the teacher told us that looking in the mirror is important. As an actor it’s important to know your body. How it looks, how it moves, how it feels. Sounds obvious right? But I think sometimes we can get embarrassed about looking in the mirror. I think this comes from the fact that we are very used to caring about the way we are seen by others and the image we project. I often look at myself and think about what I could change or what should be better. But I think this isn’t really looking at yourself, this is sort of like looking through someone else’s eyes. It’s not easy to really just look in the mirror and it’s easy to forget that no-one will ever see what we do when we look at ourselves like this. Does this make any sense? I guess what I’m trying to say is that mirrors are good. But they are personal – when we look in a mirror we open a dialogue with ourself or our ‘other’ as Lacan might have put it. So don’t think for other people when you’re looking in a mirror, just enjoy your conversation with the ‘other you’.



This weeks post is about a topic of painting rather than a specific painter.

During the 19th century a certain number of Western countries packed their travel bags and journeyed East into countries like Turkey, Egypt and Iran (which was still known as the mythical Persia back then). While they were there, Western artists found a lot of things to inspire them in their paintings; the beautiful landscape, the exotic wildlife and of course, beautiful women. Lots of beautiful women.

Odalisque (pronounced Oh-Da-Lisk) is a word that refers to women slaves of a Harem. ‘What is a Harem?’ I hear you cry. A Harem is section of a Muslim household which is specifically meant for woman. Men are usually forbidden to enter the Harem. The word itself can translate more or less as ‘Forbidden place’ – Very romantic, no? The Odalisque is the lowest member of the household chain, serving the others. Also, despite the way they are portrayed in most paintings, their sexuality isn’t actually part of their job description – although if they were really good, they could aspire to become concubines. But I think most of the painters ignored this fact and most the women in Odalisque paintings are the women of leisure themselves.

So, you know when you’re young and thinking about your girl friends having sleep overs. Usually we imagine them having pillow fights, modelling their underwear and comparing boob sizes. I think this is probably what the Western artists of the 19th century thought when they were told abut the Harem. And so, we are left with hundreds if not thousands of paintings that fall under the Odalisque name, which feature beautiful, exotic women of leisure in various states of undress.

Les Odalisques – Jacqueline Marval – 1903
Just moments away from a pillow fight!

Out of the hundreds of Odalisque paintings and artists I’m just going to select a few to speak about.

La Grande Odalisque – Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – 1814

First; The Grand Odalisque by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. The Grand Odalisque was commissioned by the Queen of Napels, Caroline Murat (who also happened to be Napoleon’s sister). It is often cited as the work that broke Ingres away from the Neoclassical into Romanticism.

The Turkish Bath – 1863

Now there’s a few fun facts about this painting. Most of which revolve around the fact that this poor girl is all out of proportion. This is actually a running theme in Ingres’ paintings, especially when portraying his female models. It has been noted that her spine is 3-5 vertebrae too long and that her limbs are all different lengths. Many critics pointed this out, saying they were mistakes or the result of poor figure studies. However this is most likely not the case. Ingres, in his paintings was searching for the perfect female form, and that meant the perfect form relating to him, and the subject of his work. This girl here is a lady of pleasure and seduction. As such, Ingres distorted the length of her back and pelvis area to highlight this.

Another thing to consider – Does she look Middle-Eastern to you? She doesn’t to me. Actually she looks rather French indeed, and it is most likely that she was painted as a tribute to the French beauties of the day, but put into an Orientalist context.

Ingres continued with this theme of Orientalism. One of his most famous paintings in this theme is The Turkish Bath. If you look closely you’ll see more examples of Ingres deforming the woman as a way to reach his ideal form.

Another artist I like is Georges Antoine Rochegrosse. Simply because his paintings are B-E-A-Utiful. Rochegrosse (1859 – 1938) was French and dealt with historical and decorative paintings. His paintings are usually epic on scale and can be quite gruesome at times. I will follow up with a post dedicated to Rochegrosse at some point. But for now I’m just looking at his Odalisque paintings. Look at these:

Aren’t they beautiful? Note the similarities between the two. The posture, the window in the back, the placement of the  curtains. Maybe they’re sisters?

And finally, Mariano Fortuny. Fortuny (1838 – 1874) was Spanish this time. Or actually, I should specify; he was Catalan. He was also a historical painter and did a wide verity of scenes depicting Spanish political and social issues. A lot of military paintings. For me though, it’s just the way he paints people. I think they’re beautiful and so expressive. So here are two of his Odalisque paintings. It’s the same woman; notice her ankle and arm bands. I think she’s great. So elegant and lovely – and she knows it. That’s what I like about her, she’s kind of cheeky. These were the first two Odalisque paintings I ever saw actually, whilst I was in Barcelona last year.

Right, I know I didn’t go into that much detail about Rochegrosse or Fortuny, but that’s because I want to give each of them a post of their own soon. But before I do this I want to address a certain subject related to this one. Women with Mirrors – A lot of these pictures (like the one above) feature these women looking at themselves in mirrors and I’d like to talk a little bit about what this might mean. A bit of feminist theory maybe? We’ll see.