PRINT December 1973

Virility and Domination in Early 20th Century Vanguard Painting

IN THE DECADE BEFORE World War I, a number of European artists began painting pictures with a similar and distinctive content. In both imagery and style, these paintings forcefully assert the virile, vigorous, and uninhibited sexual appetite of the artist. The best remembered—but surely not the only—artists who felt the need to see themselves thus reflected were the Fauve artists in France and the Brücke group in Germany. Much of their art not only celebrates male erotic experience, it promotes some wider, still unexamined, notions about women and art in general. Equally unexplored are the social and historical meanings of these works, and the ways in which they articulate and reinforce bourgeois ideology.

The concern with virility—the desire to assert it in one’s art—is hardly unique to this particular decade. Much of what I am going to say here could be said of later 20th-century as well

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