Ask Morgana 073: Francine van Hove

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Francine van Hove (b.1942) is a prolific French painter, currently living and working in Paris. Her painting technique has often been likened to Italian Renaissance and Flemish art of the 16c and 17c. The subjects of her paintings are almost exclusively young women – it is as though she maintains a ‘stable’ of models – most often caught, as it were, between modelling sittings, dressing, undressing, pinning up the artist’s sketches of themselves, standing in front of mirrors, reading, drinking coffee. Their faces are calm, relaxed, tending to bored or dreaming; by and large their hair is gathered in buns. There is no hint of forwardness, titillation, or sexual activity; the models seem perfectly at ease with semi-nakedness.

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I love her work, its coolness, its flawlessness. In the painting below, and its details, van Hove has committed herself to a study of the same young woman from several angles, by the simple device of stationing her in front of a triptych mirror. This allows the artist to make a study not only of her face but also of her back, shoulders, and neck. She has also captured a moment – a lull in the conversation between the model and her comrade, visiting her for a moment or two. It is as though capturing the interruption, haiku-like, is as important to the artist as anything else.

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But is it erotic? To me it is, no matter what the artist’s intention may be – and as I said before, we are at arm’s length from the intentions of every artist – it would be a poor artist who felt it necessary to pin an explanation on each painting. I believe that van Hove is perfectly aware that her models are sensual and sexual. The paintings may have a coolness to them, but the studio is always full of sunlight, warmth, the scent of coffee and fresh bread, and inevitably the musk of the models’ bodies.

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Reproduced under ‘fair use’ provisions. For more art, search ‘Francine van Hove’.

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