New section on the blog! Lingerie and Art, because I’m an Art Historian, after all! 😉
Here I’ll be posting artworks which showcase lingerie or loungewear garments, so in following posts we’ll see paintings by Tolousse Lautrec, Egon Schiele or François Boucher. But today we’ll start with the photographer Ernest James Bellocq (1873-1949). Why him? Because he‘s a less known artist and, as you will see, he was quite peculiar. (Also, I don’t like doing things in a chronological order. Or in any order at all xD).
A brief introduction: Bellocq came from a wealthy family of New Orleans, and he made a living taking pictures of landmarks, ships and machinery for some local companies. And what is so special about it? Nothing, really. The special thing comes now: in 1958 (9 years after Bellocq’s death) a gentleman named Larry Borenstein, who had an art gallery in NOLA, found several photos signed by Bellocq inside an old cabinet. He showed them in private to his friend Lee Friedlander, also a photographer himself. Friedlander was so impressed by the pictures that he acquired them and some years later he decided to publish a book about this particular aspect of Bellocq’s work. And now you wonder: what was in those pictures? Well, the quiet Bellocq, who never knew the fame when he was alive, was acclaimed after his death due to his portraits of the women who worked at Storyville brothels.
Those were private photos, which he never showed to anyone, and in some of them the women’s faces are scratched (they think that Bellocq did it to protect the identity of some of the girls). Opposed to other photographers who depicted prostitutes, Bellocq’s portraits don’t seek the eroticism in such an explicit way. Despite some of his pictures feature naked women, Bellocq tried to capture them in their daily activities. It’s said that the photographer spent a lot of time in brothels, and that he lived for a while in one of them, so he had the chance to portrait the girls in moments of idleness and leisure. Through his pictures we can catch a glimpse of the women’s intimacy, see the environment around them and, of course, admire their clothes.