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be kept to a certain sane manner of other people do not do. And did i ine thought upon the vital truths of life. women out of ten go unclad every day
At any rate, in decadent and corrupted and any day down Market street, the stages of civilization, the popular con- tenth woman who assumed a skirt and ception of human beauty has been of coat would be "lectured at” as an immodsomething misformed, grotesque, and est vicious creature as she no doubt grotesquely costumed. Among the mod would prove, and the idle men would turn erns we have only to refer to France in to look after her, just as now they turn the period before the revolution, and to look after the skirt that is shorter or among the ancients whether in India, in tighter than the average Egypt, in Asia Minor or in Greece and So, again, we of today, the children Rome, or in the far away civilizations of and grandchildren of the silly '60's, and prehistoric America, periods of social de heirs to all their vices and miscalculacadence have always been accompanied tions, have much deliverance to be thankby accentuation of ornate, grotesque and ful for. complicated costume, disfiguring and For instance, there was the fad for masking the human form in the age's art. barefoot dancing. It has freed us for
It is as though we humans conceived ever from a lascivious attitude toward of truth in the form of a beautiful, per all dancing. No one of our grandmothfect woman or youth, and once having ers could have stood up in a skirt to forgotten the outlines of such a form, we her ankles and have done any sort of a seem to forget the nature and existence solo dance, with the slightest of kicks, of truth.
without losing her character. So, it the moralists, by generations of Queerly, in spite of all this false modvicious ancestry, have forgotten to take esty, all the dancing of that period tended joy in the beautiful nude in art, they toward lasciviousness. Where now is should awaken to its beneficient social the skirt dance with its one revealing effect.
kick to the ceiling that was supposed to Arthur Ruhl, in his charming book, be so exciting and wicked? Where now describing a trip through Russia in the are the pink tights and the wasp waists winter of 1915-1916, before the curse of of the Amazon chorus of old? war and its resulting political chaos had After all it was not what these poor destroyed the normal ways of Russian ladies of the stage, who no doubt were life, tells of a characteristic adventure at only trying to earn an honest living, did Kiev-a swim in the Dneiper.
that made them seem evil. It was the He says: “Kiev is on the bluffs of the thought behind the eyes of the audience west bank. The east shore of the river that watched them. consists of low sand-flats, an ideal bath. Nowadays, a dancer who is a real ing place, and people rowed across from dancer, can come out clad in a piece of Kiev, walked up the sand a bit, and went chiffon the size of a pocket handkerchief, into the river au naturel, like small boys and because she has no tights to mask in the old swimming hole.”
and hamper, give us the opportunity of Ruhl was at first somewhat disconcert joy in beautiful movement which we can ed by the sight of heavy handsome men accept and appreciate to its full-because and women splashing in the water with there is evil neither in what she does, their children “like happy walruses." nor in what we think. But the impersonal attitude of these But in the beginning our fathers men and women and children to the thought much evil of the barefoot dancothers and to themselves soon penetrat. ers-until the barefoot dancers shocked ed and he found somewhat to his sur. it out of their systems. Now there is prise, he tells us, that the human animal, such a dancer on every vaudeville proonce all men lay aside clothes, is no gram, and they can do little but bore us, more naked or exposed than any other unless they have real and exceptional animal. Immodesty is a thing of cus. art in their dancing. tom. Yet it is immodest to do what To & certain extent the "curse" has
been taken off the nude for us, because to Powers. He did his best. The main we are beginning to realize it was in our desideratum was to get the American own eyes, - a sort of shadow of the people to gaze at a nude, as a rightful clothes with which the form was wont to and good thing to do. He accomplished be covered.
that. He overcame the tabu, and started When the grinning Chicago crowds a movement to destroy a fetish, blocked traffic to stare at "September But Powers' and most sculptors and Morn,” it was not because the picture painters reach only the "exclusive and had any great value as a painting, nor cultured" stratas of our society. Their merely because the lady therein was un work in correcting and making sane our covered by any garment. Rather it was ideas of some of the most vital things in because of a certain feeling that the lady life, do not penetrate very far. should have been dressed—that she had (Of course the sculptors and painters a regular modern costume back on the have no idea—at least, many of them shore somewhere which she would soon have not, that they are doing anything run back and shiver into. The crowd of the sort. Very few artists are moralhad a sense of peering into a scene for- ists. They create the beautiful as they bidden—and that is just what the artist see it, and their social use is incidental.) intended, and the reason that "Septem- But the art of photographing the nude ber Morn," as a painting, is not a work has reached so high a point in America, of art, but a vicious trick in the name of and especially on the Pacific Coast, that art, which every lover of the nude it promises to do great “missionary work.” resents. Yet this picture in the end These reproductions are as good as worked its good. It became famous and "originals" — they have the advantage, popular on penny postcards, and the really of being originals, and the prices ordinary public learned that they might are not too high to place them out of look upon a nude picture without being reach of the general public. stricken by a bolt from the blue. They The personalities and temperaments of finally got used to it, and there was the the artists who have taken this art upon blessing—they immediately lost interest the coast have been most fortunate. in it, and in any other nude that appeal. Such artists as Emma B. Freeman and ed merely because it was unclothed. Jesse Banfield have succeeded in steerAfter that a nude would have to be ing safely between the two evils that beclothed in the artist's intellectuality and set the path of every student or portrayer conception of beauty, before they could of the nude. Without making their again be interested.
studies so innocuous as to be meaningThe first nude figure by an American less and lacking in personality, they have artist to be exhibited in America, was the nevertheless succeeded in avoiding any "Greek Slave," by Hiram Powers. A pic. lewd suggestiveness in subject or treatturesque incident was the securing byment. Powers of a round-robin signed by sev- True enough, Banfield is a believer in eral prominent Philadelphia ministers of glamourie. He invests his plates with an the gospel, that the “Greek Slave" was atmospheric softness and illusion. His "pure" and wouldn't hurt the public by figures seem almost shadows-spirits of being gazed at. There is no doubt about the wood, that will fade into the backthe figure being innocuous. Poor Pow ground and disappear should we rub our ers in his determination to thoroughly eyes too briskly. He is a veritable poet sterilize his work from any bad associa of the place. tions had to destroy all trace of person- Miss Freeman's plates show a more ality or beauty. It is a woodeny, stupid realistic, and perhaps intellectual treatthing enough, that “Greek Slave." It ment of the relation of the human nude missed being a real work of art by ex- to nature in its primitive forms. She loves actly the opposite method to that taken to catch her dryads in the deep woods, in case of the painting just mentioned, and she gives them a certain solidity, as but we must, nevertheless, be grateful of the warm brown earth.