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Dr. Giuntini: Parme Giuntini. I'm here with Robert Summers.
We're looking at an impressionist painting, The Floor Scrapers
by Gustave Caillebotte.
The Floor Scrapers is such a different depiction
of manual labor then say Courbet's painting of the Stonebreakers.
Dr. Summers: Courbet's Stonebreakers shows two men working outside,
breaking stones in the heat and this is Courbet's homage
to the working [tour].
On the other hand you have Caillebotte who is painting three men
inside this gorgeous room already.
Made more gorgeous by the lighting.
What's interesting about this is that with Courbet's image
of the Stonebreakers, the men are anonymous.
With this you can see their face and they're also half nude.
They're inside, you would expect the stonebreakers
to be possibly half nude but they're not, they're fully dressed.
As opposed to these men who are half nude
and in this kind of kneeling position, scraping forward
towards the artist. Simultaneously, eroticizing the male body
through the lighting and the highlighting of the muscles
on the arms and backs which match the curvy linear lines
on the raw iron just outside the window.
Also of the light that's illuminating,
reflects the gold around the room.
Aiming at this kind of sensual feeling about it.
So he's centralizing the worker as opposed to
what we could read Courbet is honoring or heroisizing the worker.
Dr. Giuntini: But this does not become a model
for a lot of subsequent male nudes.
Do you think this was some kind of a troublesome image in some ways?
Dr. Summers: During the 1800s, homosexuality was invented
as an identity, before then it was just an act.
Committed an act of sodomy and you could have been arrested.
To the scientific community it became
a verifiable identity category.
Interestingly enough within the visual arts, the male nude
roughly at the same time periods begins to disappear almost completely
in replace of the female nude.
I think that someone like Caillebotte who's been questioned
by many as being same sex oriented would paint such images.
He didn't have to worry about selling his images
because he came from a wealthy family and so he could paint what he wanted to.
Possibly desire for this working class male body.
Dr. Giuntini: I think there are definitely class issues at play here
because Caillebotte has painted these three men
from a slightly superior position, he's looking down on them,
and they are so eroticized.
Dr. Summers: During this time period there was this self fashioning
of the self by many men with money or who pretended they have money.
Such as Oscar Wilde or Marcel Proust story,
the artist that we're talking about here.
Many people who enacted this kind of lifestyle
that many would call decadent even in France during that time.
Wearing expensive suits, etcetera and the [finer] and the dandier
kind of examples of this figure.
What's interesting is that they were drawn to
the working class male body, not the aristocratic body
but the body of the working poor but that plays out here I think visually.
Where you have Caillebotte painting these men in this scene of labor
that glorify the body of the male.
Dr. Giuntini: How come it didn't become a model from [identity]?
Dr. Summers: I don't think it was a model for the modern European world
which was and remains to be heterosexually dominated
because any reference to the male as ***
is always already troublesome at best.