Saturday, July 15, 2006

The art of intimacy

When I found this painting today, I fell in love with its intimacy and implied longing. It's so obvious that poor Henri truly loved women. How else could he have truly seen and captured all the delicate tones in her skin and the simple, luxuriant beauty of hair tied loosely so it wouldn't get soaked in her upcoming bath? I love how he captured the girlish messiness of a woman's private rooms. I've never been able to keep my bathroom neat when I'm getting ready. Towels, discarded clothing, q-tips, cotton balls, used makeup sponges are all flung aside until I'm finished, and my clothing is the only thing that awaits. My counter is littered with brushes and the mysterious ointments that I use in search of the proper polished image. Only a man who truly loves women can appreciate the beauty of a woman getting herself ready.

I admit I'm biased. When we were younger, my husband was fascinated watching me do my makeup and hair, and it totally confounded and charmed me. It was the final product of the made-up face, curled hair and carefully selected wardrobe that was supposed to be alluring, but he found the process enticing. He still confounds me. I can spend hours getting ready for some political function we're supposed to attend, and he'll tell me I look fine. I can plop, tired and aching after a day's work in my chair, my makeup melted off, my hair a tangled, wild mass after I remove the pins that hold it in its disciplined French twist, attractive clothing exhanged for a tshirt and capris, and he'll tell me I'm beautiful. I still don't know what to make of that, and it still charms me.

I also love the ambiguity of this painting. With the woman's posture, it's hard to know just exactly what she's doing. Is she removing her stocking, or is she a putaine attending herself between clients? While a proper lady may assume that pose from time to time, it's definitely not ladylike, and I love the earthiness of it.

I doubt that I will ever have a portrait painted of me, but if for some reason that happens, I hope the artist would want to capture me in a moment that shows the intimate reality of my life and not a stiff pose. Of course, the underlying hope is that the artist would see me through the eyes of love.

La Toilette, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, 1889


Blogger V said...

Henri was great, wasn`t he?
I believe La Toilette is at Musee d`Orsay. I`d love to tour that museum. My best friend was there last fall.

July 16, 2006 6:05 AM  

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