Lucien Clergue: Nudes
In his work on the female nude, Clergue brings together the
various currents of his artistic practice. He titled his first book
of nudes Aphrodite. Borrowing from classical Western mythology,
Clergue imbues his earliest nudes with allusions to the Greek
goddess. Like so much of surviving classical Greek statuary of the
gods, in Clergue's photography the bodies are truncated.
claims in his volume, Nude Workshop that as a young man he used his
handkerchief to measure the distances between head and breasts,
breasts and waist, waist and ankles as depicted in such statuary to
learn the dimensions of ideal human form as understood by the Greeks
and by the artists of the Italian Renaissance.
saltimbanques, Clergue's nudes deny individual character or selfhood
in favor of representing "universal" types. Clergue's The Giants,
Camargue, 1978 offers a repetition of forms. Here multiple bodies
take on the appearance of a landscape rising out of the surf.
Sea Nude, Carmargue, 1958 the female torso seems to be twisting
itself free from the watery depths of the ocean. The image appears to
be a rendering of the sea-birth of Aphrodite from the excised manhood
of her father Ouranos.
Called Aphrodite because she was fashioned
from foam, she was revered as the goddess of love and sexuality.
Fulton observes that "The nude seems to be in motion, rolling away
from the foam swirling around her. Although distorted by movement,
the legs and buttocks balance the wide chest and breasts. The shape
of the abdomen echoes in smaller dimensions the form of the
Clergue's later female nudes draw upon other traditions including
the story of Eve. Against such backdrops as the forest, the city and
the desert, Clergue explores the female nude as archetypal form.
Fulton notes that upon seeing the print of Sea Nude, Carmargue, 1958,
Picasso saw in its complex and twisting form Cubist concerns with the
simultaneous presentation of multiple points of view. Yet Clergue's
work seems less concerned with modernist interrogations of the
contingencies of vision than mythopoetic obsessions with intuitive
Next: Clergue's Gypsies