Those lovely people at The Independent asked me to write a little piece about artists and their mannequins, off the back of a new exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Exciting!
Or the longer, original first draft (including quotes from a ‘living mannequin’) below:
There’s a lot more to articulated figures than Kim Cattrall’s apricot legs astride a shining motorbike in the 1987 film Mannequin. Apparently.
A new exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge peels back the prosthetics and uncovers the dummied up history of those silent studio partners, those unmoving malleable models and well-worn anatomical companions who have taken form in art since the Renaissance.
From Hogarth to Gainsborough, Degas to Dali, Cezanne to Kokoschka, the use of mannequins has allowed not only more time for artists to experiment (without some aching model shuddering into muscle fatigue after three hours of pretending to pour milk) but has also given those paintings an extra layer of intrigue – an otherworldliness, an uncanniness and a fetishised stillness. Literally fetishised in the case of Kokoschka, who commissioned a life-sized doll of his muse and unrequited love Alma Mahler, after she married another man. Apparently, after painting the lay figure several times, the artist claimed to be “cured” of his passion, and so beheaded it. You can’t do that with a model.