Hey, can we talk about Symbolist artist Félicien Rops for a minute?
I love the images that Rops comes up with. In the mixed bag that is the Symbolist movement in visual art (a late-Nineteenth-Century art movement whose adherents are linked mainly by its not being Impressionism), Belgian painter and engraver Rops delivered some of the most lovingly rendered, overtly sexual, uncomfortably misogynist artworks. His view that women are inherently Satanic and are a force for evil in the world isn't exactly the sanest or most enlightened perspective, but it led to some pretty fascinating art that's rich in metaphor. While art history classes teach us about the move towards realism and the portrayal of real-life subjects happening at this time, I prefer the perverse inner life of the Symbolists.
Now try to act surprised when I tell you that late in his life, Rops was a compatriot of the ultimate Symbolist, "Fleurs de Mal" poet Charles Baudelaire..
Rops worked with a catalog of images that included seductive dark-haired women, skeletons, Biblical imagery, creepy imps, and the fashionable trappings of bourgeois life of his time. Absinthe drinkers, loose women*, prostitutes, and other dangerous types of females populate his work, appearing as simultaneously appealing and frightening.
*Seriously--can we bring the phrase "loose woman" back into vogue? It's so descriptive and provocative without being vulgar.
If you're not sold on Rops' relevance to your interests, I shall point out that the above piece is titled "Pornocrates." Yes, you are allowed to giggle--it was meant to be satirical.
Sometimes, when I'm thinking about nothing, I think about what it would be like to meet famous historical figures. The introduction to Félicien Rops would be made by a mutual friend--undoubtedly male. We'd get to talking, and Rops, in a boozed-up stupor, would suddenly raise a declaiming hand to the sky and say "SEE, I TOLD YOU SO" and stumble off into the night. Yes, Rops would talk with his caps-lock key stuck. I'd be offended and perplexed, and the mutual friend would have to explain to me Rops' views on womankind. It would be the sort of thing that would REALLY piss me off at the time but would ultimately become one of those pithy little stories I'd tell to other friends.
Interestingly, the Félicien Rops Museum in Belgium seems to distance itself from the more provocative portion of the artist's body of work, emphasizing instead his academic training and involvement in various arts societies. It's a shame to me that there's this kind of resistance to representations of fantastical, macabre and ultimately un-PC art, even when studying the works of someone who was clearly so obsessed with this kind of idea.