Splendour And Misery: Painting Prostitution At The Musée d’Orsay In Paris

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PARIS — Women of the night and their artistic impact is the subject of a major exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The show focuses on prostitution seen through the eyes of painters between 1850 and 1910. This extraordinary undertaking, whose title is borrowed from Honoré de Balzac’s controversial novel ‘Splendeurs et Misères des Courtisanes’ (The Splendours and Miseries of Courtesans), aims to unveil the faces and bodies of prostitutes as a genuine and rich source of inspiration for the painters of the period.

The mid-nineteenth century generated an effort to depict a concrete contemporary reality with a new desire to reject Romantic modes of idealization in art and literature which opened a new range of subject considered worthy of representation. The prostitute’s body as the ultimate anti-academic subject matter previously considered socially inappropriate could eventually be brought in the frame and became emblematic of the modernist gaze. Widely represented across canvas and texts, prostitutes became a symbol for modernity and embodied modern life itself.

From Van Gogh, Manet to Picasso or Munch, the exhibition features various generations of painters across several countries. As already suggested by its title, the exhibition also intends to examine the contradictory connotations of disgust and beauty associated with prostitution. Yet if some artists emphasized the ‘misery’ of it in their work while others chose instead to highlight its ‘splendour’, artists were all operating under the prism of fascination. Whether as cubists, impressionists, postimpressionists or expressionists, all were trying with a particular brush to reveal this disorienting world of the unseen sometimes lugubrious, sometimes colourful, no matter the technique of representation.

As they were experimenting and looking for new pictorial ways of representing prostitution, the subject was treated very differently depending on the painter’s artistic vision. Rather than reproducing scenes accurately and realistically, painters like Edgar Degas or Constantin Guys based their visions mainly on fantasies, suggesting and sublimating the noisy brothel atmosphere through unconventional techniques. Some chose to paint the common spaces of prostitution such as streets, harshly illuminated rooms or the dark interiors of ‘cafés-concerts’ and ‘music-halls’, while others preferred the intimate details of a face or a body.

Along with its artistic impact, the event also examines the social and cultural aspect of prostitution through Salon painting, decorative arts, sculpture and photography. In addition, various documentary and archival materials made available to the public highlight the ambivalent status of prostitutes from the splendour of the ‘demi-mondaine’, a pleasure girl living on her wealthy clients, to the misery of the ‘pierreuse’, an often clandestine street walker.

The social subject of prostitution is still a complex one nowadays. The fact that the Musée d’Orsay decided to conclude the year with a celebration of artistic images of prostitution has a particular resonance in light of the latest debates on the subject in France. We cannot but connect it to the recent decision of the French senate to scrap important sections of a government-backed law on prostitution that brought hundreds of prostitutes in the streets of Paris and other French cities last April. In spite of this resonance, whether taken as a subtle reminder of the still open debate on the controversial prostitution law in France or as a pure celebration of nineteenth century artistic imagery of prostitution, this impactful event is definitely not to miss.

‘Splendour and Misery — Pictures of Prostitution, 1850-1910’
22 September to 17 January 2016 – Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Pictures of Prostitution

‘At the Moulin Rouge’, 1892, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The Art Institute of Chicago

Pictures of Prostitution

‘Olympia’, 1863, Édouard Manet, Grand Palais, Paris

Pictures of Prostitution

‘The Absinthe Drinker’, 1901, Pablo Picasso, Hermitage Museum, St Petersbourg

Pictures of Prostitution

‘The Absinthe’, 1873, Edgar Degas, Grand Palais, Paris

Pictures of Prostitution

‘Party at the Moulin Rouge’, 1889, Giovanni Boldini, Grand Palais, Paris

Pictures of Prostitution (4)

‘The Gallien Girl’, 1910, Frantisek Kupka, Národni Galerie, Prague

Pictures of Prostitution

‘Rolla’, 1878, Henri Gervex, Grand Palais, Paris

Pictures of Prostitution

‘The Wait’, 1848, Jean Béraud, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

By Pauline Schnoebelen

 

Possible new law of nature on the way

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The world of physics is excited about strong but early evidence about the behavior of muons, paricles identical to electrons only 200x more massive (heavier), which once born take 2.2 microseconds to decay into an electron, and which spin like tops. In a new, extremely precise measurement, they were made to wobble using magnetic fields but they unexpectedly wobbled quite significantly faster than the Standard Model suggests they would. They might spin so fast due to an unknown force caused by an unknown particle, and this is what is so exciting.

“We found that a muon … is not in agreement with our current best theory of physics at the subatomic level, and … it potentially points to a future with new laws, new particles and new forces in physics which we haven’t seen to date,” said Professor Mark Lancaster at U of Manchester.

“The main goal of the experiment is to make the measurement and compare with the theory, and if they disagree then it’s telling us that there’s something in nature which is not in the theory,” explained James Mott at Fermilab.

The four known forces of nature (gravity, electricity, two nuclear forces: strong and weak interactions) have left scientists without an answer for some observed phenomena, such as the speed at which galaxies spin (faster than the best model suggests). Therefore, they continue to search for glitches in their already-tight models which might point them things they don’t yet know about.

The most recent work was done at Fermilab (Muon g-2 experiment), but a similar experiment was already done earlier at the Large Hadron Collider. These tools accelerate particles in large rings at close to the speed of light.

The evidence needs more tests for greater certainty, particularly to rule out the possibility of a systematic error, and particularly with a new, independent experiment, but physicists will be chasing this line of experiment eagerly.

“This is outstanding confirmation of experimental technique, and very, very suggestive of the possibility of new physics,” noted scientist David Hertzon of U of Washington.

By the editors

#AnomalousMagneticDipoleMomentOfTheMuon #QuantumElectrodynamics

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People in Kachin state demonstrate against China

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YANGON, Myanmar – The people in the Pharkant area of Kachin state demonstrated against China this week, drawing a cross on the Chinese flag and burning a picture of Myanmar’s military leader Min Aung Hlaing.

“China stands with the military leader,” shouted the demonstrators.

By Htay Win
Photo credit Aye Yarwaddy

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Myanmar military council arrests the artist Zarganar

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YANGON, Myanmar – The artist Zarganar was arrested by the Myanmar military council from his home in Tarmwe township, Yangon this morning.

Zarganar is not only a director but also a comedian famous for political jokes since the 1988 democratic revolution.

Zarganar was arrested by the Myanmar military many times before 2010.

By Htay Win
Photo credit Zarganar page

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Kayin IDPs struggle to get for food

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YANGON, Myanmar – Kayin internally displaced people are desperate for food, clothing and shelter, hiding in the forest from the air strikes of the Myanmar military.

The IDPs fled to neighboring Thailand, but Thai government turned them back. However, Wednesday morning the Thai government opened Maeseli jetty in Maehaungsaung district to sending rations and medicines over the border to Kayin state, according to a Thai media.

By Htay Win

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Twenty Myanmar celebrities charged with incitement

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YANGON, Myanmar -They were charged under the country’s media law with inciting government employees to join the popular civil disobedience movement (CDM) through social media.

Celebrities took part in the NLD election campaigns and are thought to have played a large part in influencing the public, particularly Myanmar’s youth, to vote for Aung San Suu Kyi.

By Htay Win
Photo credit Myanmar celebrity

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