The topic involving the nude model, the professor and the student goes beyond the specific issue at hand and highlights human sexuality as each individual sees it. The student seems to be the most honest person in this case study. He sees a scantily clad, attractive female who is about to model in the nude and he reacts exactly as most normal males are bound to react.
In my freshman sociology class of 1963, the professor giving this part of the course shocked everybody at the beginning of his first lecture when he stated, "The primary instinct of every male is to impregnate as many females as possible." (It is probable that some males in that class thought, "Not me, sir" but in 1963 most gays were still in the closet).
The "curves" of the sexually maturing/mature woman are part of the secondary sexual characteristics and are designed to attract the attention of the male. Hence the selection of particularly seductive models (according to the societal norms of the period and often embellished by the artist) throughout the ages. The nude model in question who was not pleased by the student's attention to her cleavage seems to be somewhat naive or perhaps somewhat demanding. Why does she think that people are paying to see her naked?
When she poses she becomes an object which an artist manipulates in his psyche and on his canvas. The artist might interpret his model with respect and affection. Cezanne's Mont St. Victoire or Van Gogh's sunflowers or Modigliani's nude studies seem to have been creations that were executed with sympathy and a certain degree of esteem. But they were objects nonetheless and they became part of a product that was for sale.
The art student is given a protocol to follow in painting a female nude: "...the female figure should be drawn according to a series of steps that greatly facilitates portraying on paper the form, measures, and placement of the body with its characteristic anatomy." (from Barron's Workbooks for Painting, Nudes by Jose M. Parramon). Of course instruction is more complex than this and elaborate courses exist not only for painting but also for sculpture and photography.
In all cases the student is taught how to manipulate lighting, materials and the model in order to render the object according to his subjective interpretation. The model is incidental. If she were not available another could be easily found. Renoir was certainly not at a loss for replacements. When he no longer felt that Suzanne Valadon was the ideal model, many others followed.
At the current time nude models in Italy are trying to organize themselves into an association in order to have some job security and benefits such as an eventual pension. They realize that their "marketable assets" are rather perishable and that their time as sexually desirable models is limited. Their character and individual personality, which make them women much more than their looks do, have very little to do with the demand for artists' models.
The professor, who seems to feel that he is the authority on this subject, does not seem to understand his role in the situation. Since he is making his living by teaching art and in this specific instance painting the nude, he is directly profiting from his model's body and should be aware that different people will react in different ways when confronted with the model in the flesh and her image on canvas.
It is wrong to invalidate the fact that a young man might be drawn to a woman's bare breasts before he sees her eyes. Many women also seem to have the same reaction when seeing a man for the first time. When I was a teacher and mostly working with female colleagues it was not uncommon for me to hear women describing some male, who was passing through our school for some reason, as a "hunk". Once I overheard a female principal talking to some teachers about a volunteer dad and saying, "Yes girls, he's a hottie!" This is a normal human reaction and it is honest in its expression.
The hunk, the hottie and the sexy cleavage model are physical manifestations acknowledged in the first wave of perception. They catch the attention of the respective opposite sex and begin the "dialogue" . Perhaps as the dialogue progressess we realize that we want more and that physical attributes are not enough. This is what human relationships are all about.
However in some narrowly defined fields the body comes first. Basketball players, jockeys and nude models readily come to mind. Tall and muscular, compact and lightweight or feminine and sexually attractive are job descriptions that cannot be denied in these cases. How someone relates to these people is besides the point, just as how someone relates to my long ago professor's statement, "The primary instinct of every male is to impregnate as many females as possible", is also besides the point.
Physical attributes and instincts are statements of fact established by natural conditions. Human interpretation of these conditions and reaction to them are part of the complex emotions of each individual and should not be invalidated or confirmed by the understanding of others who may not necessarily accept or share a particular train of thought. Therefore if you are a good looking female and decide to get paid for exhibiting your naked body don't be surprised if someone notices your breasts before they look in your eyes.
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