Art is (sometimes) subversive, since the dawn of time. Judged indecent, too erotic or ... bad, these sulphurous paintings have been able to defy their historical context and make a lot of ink flow.
Thérèse dreaming, Balthus (1938)
Why ? The scandal erupted late … 2017, when a petition circulated so that the Metropolitan Museum of Art removed the canvas deemed “too erotic”. Born a month after the creation of #MeToo, this query will collect more than 7000 signatures in 72 hours. So when some accuse Balthus’ paintings of “conveying a romantic image of the child-object,” others point out that this momentary pause, of tipping between the world of childhood and adulthood, has always been heart of the painter’s artistic reflection.
Seated Woman in Violet Stockings, Egon Schiele (1917)
Why ? The work of Egon Schiele has always occupied an essential place in the relations between art and eroticism. Her nudes take raw and explicit poses, like this woman who masturbates while staring at the viewer. His drawings considered “indecent” will also be worth three days in jail, a conviction for contempt of public decency and a burned masterpiece in public.
The origin of the world, Gustave Courbet (1866)
Why ? It is certainly the most provocative painting in the history of art. This shocking picture, signed by the leader of the realists, is too modern for his time, with this sex tight plan and open thighs of a woman whose face we do not know. It will have to wait one hundred and twenty five years after its realization, before entering the Musée d’Orsay in 1995.
White square on a white background, Kasimir Malevitch (1918)
Why ? Today considered as the first monochrome of abstract painting, the work was at the time immediately rejected because of its participation in “the death of art”. The artist explained then that the white of the canvas represented, in his eyes, the infinite.
Lunch on the Grass, Édouard Manet (1863)
Why ? Considered a vulgarity without name at the time, the painting radically upsets the classical movement. The central body of Victorine – muse of the painter – appears there completely denuded defying all academic standards of the time, the bather seems too big, the set-up of all parts and the scene too modern. The painting, along with two other works by the artist, will mark the opening of Salon des Refusés the same year.