Gustav Klimt

Sexuality and Erotic Art by Chris Hall

Christopher Hall,  Bow Legged Goddess Figure .

Christopher Hall, Bow Legged Goddess Figure.

Gustav Klimt and Pablo Picasso both said “All art is erotic.”  The drive to create and the sexual impulse is remarkably similar; it is defined by passion.  I think eroticism and sexuality are two different things, though they frequently overlap.  Erotic art needn't always be sexually explicit; a line can be sensual and color can be passionate, for example.  Sexuality, however, while frequently erotic, can also veer off into crude pornography, or scientific, medical investigation.

Eroticism can have a real spiritual depth.  There is nothing more erotic, to me, than gazing into the eyes of a lover, peering into the depths of their soul.  But this kind of erotic expression, this kind of love, is almost impossible to render in figurative art.  In my art I reserve this kind of eroticism, this kind of sensuality, for abstract expression, or for more formal qualities (such as line and color).

What follows are some of my drawings depicting or suggesting sexuality, which may or may not be erotic, depending your taste.  It should be noted that I sometimes find expressions of sexuality to be ridiculous and funny, and this attitude is often reflected in my work which has a penchant toward the “inappropriate.”  I do not find much of anything sexual to be inappropriate.  There is nothing wrong with sexuality; it is what makes us adults and human beings.  We should celebrate our sexuality, rather than be ashamed of it.  My erotic/sexual art is, of course, a celebration of sexuality, but also a criticism of puritanical tendencies in our society, and at times, a criticism of sexual exploitation and its vulgar, overuse in advertisement.  

"Why should I be ashamed to describe what nature was not ashamed to create?"   Pietro Aretino

"If you bring your sexual impulses to your creative work... you'll be working from deep in the genetic code, down where life wants to make new life and feel good in the process."  Eric Maisel

"The artist's experience lies so unbelievably close to the sexual, to its pain and its pleasure, that the two phenomena are really just different forms of one and the same longing and bliss."  Rainer Maria Rilke

"I can always be distracted by love, but eventually I get horny for my creativity."  Gilda Radner

"Erotic symbols are part of nature in their aspect of fertility and creativity and, as such, are an inherent part of Man's own needs and drive."  Bela Fidel 

"Aesthetic emotion puts man in a state favorable to the reception of erotic emotion... Art is the accomplice of love. Take love away and there is no longer art."  Remy de Gourmont 

"There is a connection between art and sex, with arousal in one realm speaking to arousal in another."  Laura Jacobs

"Even the most innocent of images can send subliminal messages of an erotic nature."  Julie Rodriguez Jones  

"The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting."  Gloria Leonard 

"Being sexy is kind of funny to me."  Reba McEntire

"It is sexual energy which governs the structure of human feeling and thinking."  Wilhelm Reich

"The difference between eroticism and pornography is one of art."  Andre Salvet 

"I do not deny that I have made drawings and watercolors of an erotic nature. But they are always works of art. Are there no artists who have done erotic pictures?"  Egon Schiele

"I am an abstract artist in the sense that I abstract. I cannot be called non-figurative while I am still interested in the modern magic of space, primitive sex forms, the sensual and erotic, disconcerting contours, the things of life."  William Scott 

"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it."   Oscar Wilde

"To deny sex is to deny life. To reject art is to impoverish yourself, rejecting pleasure and growth. To accept sex and art together is to add to oneself, to be positive instead of negative."  William Rotsler

Early Influences: Schiele and Klimt by Chris Hall

Egon Schiele,  Gustav Klimt in his Blue Painter's Smock , 1913

Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt in his Blue Painter's Smock, 1913

Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt (along with Edvard Munch) heavily influenced my drawing during my first two years as a student at the University of Georgia.  In 1995 I even filled an entire sketch book copying Egon Schiele’s work.  I fell in love with their line work which is searching, sensual, and organic, like the very fiber of life.  Below is a little about Schiele and Klimt.  Sometime later I will devote an entire blog post to Edvard Munch.

Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele was an Austrian painter born in 1890.  His work is known for its intensity and its expression of raw sexuality.  His figure drawings and paintings, many of them self-portraits, often have twisted body shapes defined by expressive contour lines.  The work is often suggestive of sex, death, and the grotesque, with a disturbing eroticism bordering on the pornographic.  In 1907 Schiele sought out Gustav Klimt as a mentor, who was impressed with his work enough to help him secure exhibitions and patrons.  As a young artist-bohemian, he lived an unconventional lifestyle that led him to being driven out of one town and being imprisoned in another.  Eventually Schiele decided to settle down and marry Edith Harms in 1915, but three days later he was conscripted for the Austrian Army as the First World War exploded across the continent.  Schiele was lucky to get a reasonably comfortable assignment as guard and clerk in a POW camp in Prague, and Edith was allowed to follow him.  But in the fall of 1918, tragedy came in the form of the Spanish Flu pandemic, which would kill over 20,000,000 people.  First it would take Edith’s life, and then three days later, Egon Schiele’s.  He was 28.  Schiele’s last drawing is of his dying wife.  

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter born in 1862.  His work is known for its frank eroticism and decorative elements, often incorporating gold leaf.  The subject of much of his work is women, often in shown in allegorical, symbolist, mythic, and erotic circumstances.  He would also make landscapes and portraiture as well.  Klimt kept his life private, but it was a life marked by sexual hedonism.  He would often dress in a robe and sandals, wearing no undergarments underneath.  Klimt would have many mistresses and would father 14 children.  Early in his career Klimt received many public art commissions, but he would stop taking the commissions after his three paintings for the Great Hall of the University of Vienna were criticized for being pornographic.  These three paintings, Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence, were later destroyed by retreating Nazi SS forces in May of 1945.  Klimt, like Schiele, would die in 1918, from complications brought on by the Spanish Flu.

Creatives with their Cats by Chris Hall

Ernest Hemingway, sharing part of his sandwich with one of his cats.

Ernest Hemingway, sharing part of his sandwich with one of his cats.

Cats are not completely tame, and neither are artists.  Their senses have not been completely dulled by civilization.  Isn’t it any wonder, then, that the two should get along so famously?  These are some of my favorite photos (and there were many) of creative types with their cats.  Enjoy!