This simple, yet elegant drawing by Russian artist Vadim Sidur joined the collection in 2001. Sidur specialized in monumental sculpture during the last Stalinist years. He was going to participate in the re-building of Moscow after World War II, but Stalin died in 1953, and in the mid-1950s Sidur abandoned the Socialist Realist vocabulary that would form the style of the postwar revisions. The officials regarded his non-canonical art as formalist and pacifist, and therefore prevented him from exhibiting in Russia. Despite this prohibition, Sidur never left his native country.
Sidur began making drawings after suffering a heart attack in 1961. In the work above, titled Faces, he achieved a quality of sculptural volume on a flat surface. The monumentality and dynamism of ancient sculpture, which had fascinated Sidur since childhood, resonates. Perhaps because of his two encounters with death (the other, during WW II) his work typically addressed existential questions about life, death, and family. The three people represented here are graphically linked, symbolizing the need for human support within a hostile social and political environment.
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This print of Édouard Manet’s infamous Olympia joined the collection in 1956. First exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon, Olympia shocked audiences with her confrontational gaze and the many details identifying her as a prostitute.
The following print by American artist Mel Ramos, which joined the collection in 1980 and was made almost 100 years after Manet’s version, borrows the subject matter, title and composition directly from Manet’s Olympia.
This interesting analysis of Ramos’s version of Olympia by the University of Michigan Museum of Art notes that the artist “blurs the line between the fine art tradition of the aestheticized female nude and contemporary pornography, suggested by his hyper-realist treatment of the nude, revealing her tan lines, her blonde bob, and her quasi-seductive gaze, similar to what one might find in any number of pin-ups girls.”
Who do you think was more shocked by these nude subjects: Manet’s viewers in 1865, or Ramos’s in 1974?
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This sketch by Gaston Lachaise joined the collection in 1961. Lachaise was an American sculptor of French birth, active in the early 20th century. A native of Paris, he was most noted for his female nudes (source).
While the sketch above is the only work by Lachaise in the Mead’s collection, the Smith College Museum of Art collection holds two sculptures and a drawing by the artist:
Eternal Force, 1917
Seated Female Nude, n.d.
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