Ask Morgana 192: Wilhelm Hempfing

Wilhelm Hempfing (1886-1948).

'Metropolis'. Fritz Lang

‘Metropolis’. Fritz Lang

The subject of ‘the male gaze’ comes up regularly, and I’m not going to ignore it. I am well aware of why, when considering erotic art, I prefer pictures of women – I’m gay, no secret. When considering the socio-cultural fact that artists who paint such pictures are overwhelmingly men, a debate opens. The arguments this way and that are familiar and well-rehearsed. What are your views? Email me.

In answer to one question, yes, I often imagine myself in the position of the model, and yes, it is not always comfortable. There is a wonderful scene in Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece Metropolis, where the camera is focussed on the faces of men at an exclusive nightclub – the Yoshiwara, named after a red light district of Tokyo – as they watch ‘the false Maria’ perform for them. This shot epitomises ‘the male gaze’. Is such a gaze always present when a man paints a naked or half-naked woman? Is such a gaze always present when a man looks at the painting? And what if a woman looks – what do we say about that gaze? Keep asking.

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Images reproduced under ‘fair use’ provisions.

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