As I said in my last post, one of the standards I used for my own personal criteria of good erotic art is how it relates to the great artwork of that past. A good piece of erotic art should have something of the artistic delicacies that art work from all genres possess, whether it be in painting or photography. What those delicacies are, is often difficult to determine. As said above, what it pleasurable to one person, but not be pleasurable to another, and vice versa. There are many, many great artists that one can refer to when deciding what one likes and does not like as far as erotic art, so the standards of judgment can be myriad. I am proposing here no dogmatic or universal standard of criteria for good erotic art, only my own tastes and judgements.
I mentioned Leonardo in my last post, as one artist who created certain types of art that I find applicable to what I find enjoyable in erotic art. Leonardo was not known for his eroticism in art, although some of his works are ambiguously asexual or even homoerotic. Leonardo himself was most likely more sexually attracted to men than women. He most likely had acted on this too, especially given the time he lived in. Still, this does not negate his ability to convey through his artwork the ambiguities, nuances and mysteries of heterosexual eroticism. I have always found his images of women extremely evocative and beautiful. A great artist is able to capture those types of things, whatever his own sexual proclivities.
So these are merely my own personal musings on what I find beautiful in erotic art. I think this is important, because too often good erotic art is merely dismissed as “porn”, whereas in fact many erotic pieces are created out of great artistic skill and inspiration. I would even go as far as saying that the centerfold photos in Playboy, and even the earlier Penthouse, often have a great deal of artistic merit. They are beautiful representations of the female form. It is only in the more trashy publications that came later that the centerfold phenomena devolved into something more raunchy and less beautiful, as least for me. With the internet all hell broke lose. But that is a subject for another post.
I like the photo above. It reminds me a lot of Leonardo’s backgrounds: he loved to paint a woman, or a scene, with a mystical background of strange rock formations, water, mists. He often created these strange, unreal environments, places that were haunting and unapproachable. I think his inspiration must have been his own fascination with the Alps which were not far from where he lived and which he must have enjoyed exploring when he could. As anyone who has an affinity for mountains knows, they can often serve as a profound and powerful form of mystical inspiration. When a beautiful face in placed in front of them, or a religious scene, a painting or photo can attain both an alluring awesomeness as well as delicate evocations of beauty and spirituality. It is a nice combination.
So for me background is important in erotic art. It must be more than simply a naked body, or an explicit action to render it of a higher quality in my mind. A good background creates a good overall atmosphere, whether that background be a grand mountainous scene such as in Leonardo, or simply a soft and delicate use of shade and lighting in a domestic situations, such as a woman in a bedroom. In either case, it is the overall image that is conveyed, the entirety of the painting or photo, rather than merely a focus on body parts or sexualized scenarios. The photo above displays a beautiful woman, yet a woman placed in a somewhat strange and potentially dangerous background: her mystery and sexual power enhanced and echoed by the vastness and tempestuousness of the ocean behind her, her ambiguity in expression reflected in the cloudy, potentially stormy skies above her, her softness and sensuous curves contrasted with the hard flintiness of the rock she is leaning on. In a vague way I find this somewhat similar to what Leonardo was doing in his stony, strange background scenes, backgrounds that embrace the most intimate and delicate of human relations, such as his Madonna and Child paintings. For instance, the painting below is a depiction of the Madonna and Child with St. Anne. It is one of Leonardo’s most famous and strange paintings. Again, notice the misty, craggy background. The gray atmosphere reminds me of the photo above.
Finally, I enjoy Leonardo’s depiction of the female face. His women are always looking away, demurely, ethereally, their gazed fixed on something we cannot see, but something that attracts our attention nevertheless. They often have a strange, mysterious smile. The Mona Lisa is the most famous example of this in all art. I always liked this quality in good erotic art too, as many of my photo postings I hope demonstrate. I give a couple of examples below.
First, something contemporary:
Next, a drawing by Leonardo:
Compare the expression of the two women in each work, respectively, and I think you can see some similarities in expression. Each artist seems to have captured something of the same thing, something of the psychological nature of the female sex. For the male viewer, for whom women have always been and will always remains somewhat of an unsolvable mystery (the popularity of and devotion to “game” is a testament to that), these works can easily conjure up all those memories of the women we once, or currently love and desire, whether that love and desire has been attained or not.
I like also in the painting above how the artist uses a blue background, something that is also common in Leonardo’s works, such as in the Madonna painting above. Blue just happens to be my favorite color too.
Leonardo also loved wisps of feminine hair, often delicately falling from the woman’s head, as if almost floating. Most men can relate to this visual, even tactile enjoyment of female hair. The two examples below show the same interest in hair, although from different artists, Leonardo and a contemporary artist.
For instance, compare this painting by Steve Hanks:
With this drawing by Leonardo:
An artistic enjoyment of hair and portraying the beauties of feminine hair is apparent in each piece, although separated by over five hundred years. Good art is truly timeless.
Perhaps a discussion of Leonardo da Vinci in the context of modern erotic art may seem strange or out of place. Perhaps it is. As I mentioned above, there are myriads of artistic examples I could use for this discussion. But what is important for me are the universal qualities of good art that transcend time, place, theme and genre. A good erotic painting, or photo, can contain many of the same elements that a great painting by one the greatest artists of all time possesses too. I say this, and perhaps it is a trite and obvious point, but I say this because too often erotic art is confused with “porn” and all are bundled together in one gigantic dump heap of filth and sinful forbiddenness, awaiting to be forever destroyed by the censor’s dogmatic and unsympathetic hand. For me a good erotic work is beautiful, has artistic merit, and is therefore deserving of preservation and even promotion in the world. After all, art makes me feel good, and I and others need that sort of simple beauty in today’s world.
Leonardo did one sketch, a cut away, of sexual intercourse. He had a man and woman have sex in his presence and essentially said that he was disgusted by the whole indignity of procreation. The image is easily found. Leonardo was solely interested in the anatomy of sexual intercourse (always the scientist). I’ve read some scholars who speculate that he was asexual, not common but also not rare.
Racer X said:
Yeah, I have seen that sketch by Leonardo. It is interesting, although I would not say there is anything erotic about it. As you said, Leonardo is always the scientist, and that was certainly the scientist at work in him when he drew that. It could be used in a human anatomy book today, and have about as much licentious thrill as a human anatomy book.
His sexuality is certainly ambiguous. He certainly was not heterosexual, and he was most likely somewhat homosexual, although perhaps he was asexual as well. Who knows after so many centuries. But whatever his sexual proclivities or lack thereof, he was a great enough artist to be able to depict in his paintings and drawings some of the finer and mysterious aspects of the female form, especially the female face. I find the strange mysteriousness of his works fascinating.
Simon Rierdon said:
Very, very cool examples. I really like how you drew the comparisons between Leonardo and contemporary erotic art. The header pic wasn’t half bad either.
Racer X said:
I am glad you like those examples. I do think it is interesting to see how many great works of art are similar to what some might consider to be “porn” and therefore worthy to be banned. I think good art, whether erotic or not, shares many similar qualities.
And yeah, I like that header pic as well!