the pre-impressionist nineteenth century was the last of classicism in art before the onset of modernism. it was a beautiful era for art, though, from what i've read about the century, i don't think i would have liked living then.
nineteenth-century artists streamlined 17th-century baroque for the new age of machines.
here are a few masterpieces of the period i would not have kicked out of my bed.
1. polites, son of priam, observes the movements of the greeks near troy (hippolyte flandrin, 1834)
young nude man sitting by the sea (hippolyte flandrin, 1836)
ok, i'm torn. flandrin's nude young man by the sea has become almost as much a gay icon as michelangelo's david or jake gyllenhaal. but two years earlier the artist painted an equally enticing figure study under the pretense of an interest in greek mythology.
at the moment i think i like the polites better.
the inviting skinfolds on the two boys' stomachs are what do it for me, i think.
2. self-portrait (leon bonnat, 1855)
i've been in love with this painting by + of bonnat since i first saw it on the cover of a paperback russian novel.
hurt and handsome, even if too thin, this is the face of the masochistic bottom of all my dreams.
3. the age of bronze (auguste rodin, 1877)
auguste neyt, a 22-year-old belgian soldier, posed for rodin in 1876.
now regarded a masterpiece, the life-sized age of bronze excited only suspicion from late 19th-century art critics, who believed rodin used a plaster cast to create the sculpture. later rodin cast the work in other sizes to prove the critics wrong.
it's easily my favorite sculpture by rodin. in many ways it's sexier than michelangelo's larger-than-life david.
the pose especially seduces, relaxed yet electric with potential strength + availability.
when at a traveling exhibition i first saw the six-foot-tall version of the statue up close, i could have swooned.
4. the wrestlers (thomas eakins, 1899)
eakins's swimming hole painting is the one usually included in the canon of pre-20th-century homoerotic art. but i like this one better.
eakins was a master of making factory life in the american north look idyllic. certainly the industrial revolution gave eakins opportunity to portray young, gainly bodies washing away the soot + grime of daily work, to reveal enticing pasty pink flesh underneath the canvas workclothes.
late in his career he created this painting, known as the wrestlers. it captures the christian athleticism movement that possessed america + england at the turn of the century, with organizations like the ymca + the boy scouts.
it's hard to say whether the wrestlers are hot or not. from what we see of them, they look a bit nerdy. nothing in their pose suggests obvious eroticism. but wrestling's hot no matter who does it--lean or muscled, handsome or ordinary, young or old, male or female, for that matter--clean, sportsmanlike wriggling, skin on skin, makes me tingle every time.
5. drawing of olimpio fusco (john singer sargent, c. 1900)
don't know who this olimpio fusco was, but, oh yeah, he'd do.
sargent's my favorite 19th-century painter, a guy who knew his way around a male nude too, as recent exhibitions prove. but i love him because, as you can see here, his true gift was faces. this one's a knockout.