When ‘Pigtails in Paint’ Is Under Attack, the Entire History of Art Is Under Attack

Once again a small faction of loudmouths who are entirely ignorant of art’s long tradition of child nudity are on the hunt, trying to take down this site. When I founded this blog years ago the nude stuff was only one small part of what Pigtails was about. I confess that the attacks and critiques over the years concerning the nudes have ironically only made me post more of it (and focus on it in my own illustration) just to get the goats of those good ol’ boy ignoramuses and fascistically-inclined keyboard warriors who have no understanding of the value of this work or its longstanding and hard-won legal protections. Admittedly that’s not a very good reason to do it, but nor does it invalidate the point of this work. These people apparently cannot look at a nude image of a child without seeing sexual intent behind it. Yes, it is they who are the perverts, these self-glorified hall monitors who seek to remove all challenges to their own sexual discomfort at the mere sight of a nude child, to eliminate all nude child art on the web so it doesn’t serve as a constant reminder that they are so sexually insecure that they cannot look upon a nude child without feeling a tinge of shameful lust.

Thus, they project their feelings onto us and call us the sick ones. Never mind that seeing this stuff constantly has a tendency to remove its mystique and thus diffuse the verboten appeal that is artificially invested in it. Never mind the fact that damn near every major artist from antiquity to the mid-twentieth century created at least one piece devoted to the nude child’s form. Van Gogh, Dalí, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Rembrandt, Picasso, da Vinci, Whistler—in other words, the handful of artists that even most non-art aficionados can name—have all tackled the subject.

Vincent van Gogh – Seated Girl (ca. 1886)

Vincent van Gogh – Seated Girl Seen from the Front (ca. 1886)

Vincent van Gogh – Nude Study of Little Seated Girl

Salvador Dalí – Dalí at the Age of Six When He Thought He Was a Girl Lifting the Skin of the Water to See the Dog Sleeping in the Shade of the Sea (1950)

Michelangelo Buonarotti – Tondo Taddei (1503-04)

Michelangelo was even one of the first artists to depict female putti as well as male:

Michelangelo Buonarroti – Putti

Donatello’s David is one of the youngest versions of the biblical hero ever depicted—the boy appears to be somewhere between thirteen to fifteen years of age.

Donatello – David (ca. 1440-1460)(1)

Donatello – David (ca. 1440-1460)(2)

Putti were common in all of the Renaissance artists’ work, including Raphael’s. The Christ child was also commonly depicted in the nude.

Raphael – Madonna di Foligno (1511)

Raphael – La belle jardinière (1507)

Rembrandt – Child in a Tantrum (1635)

Ganymede has popped up frequently on our blog lately. Remember that Zeus abducted Ganymede because of his beauty and made the boy one of his lovers as well as official cup bearer of Olympus. Keep that in mind when viewing this next piece.

Rembrandt – The Abduction of Ganymede (1635)

Pablo Picasso – The Two Brothers

Pablo Picasso – Young Girl with a Goat (1906)

Pablo Picasso – Massacre in Korea (1951)

Leonardo da Vinci – Study of a Child (1508)

Leonardo da Vinci – The Holy Infants Embracing (1486)

James McNeill Whistler – Nude Girl

Nor was their any particular political slant that favored this sort of work. Everyone from far left Soviet artists like Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin and Alexander Deineka to far right artists like Francoist painter and illustrator Carlos Sáenz de Tejada and German artists Anselm Feuerbach, Gisbert Palmié, Hans Thoma, Adolf Ziegler and Karl Albiker (all of them official artists of the Third Reich), and everyone in between, created work featuring nude children.

Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin – Morning, Bathers (1917)

Alexander Deineka – Children of Leisure (1933)

Carlos Sáenz de Tejada – Girl from Back, Lusita (1917)

Carlos Sáenz de Tejada – Nude Girl

Anselm Feuerbach – Badende Kinder (1864)

Anselm Feuerbach – Children on the Beach

Gisbert Palmié – Rewards of Work (1933)

Hans Thoma – Flora

Hans Thoma – April

Adolf Ziegler – Goddess of Art

Karl Albiker – Tanzerin (Giulietta)(1)

Karl Albiker – Tanzerin (Giulietta)(2)

Of course, some of the most popular artists of all time also created child nudes. French Academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, one of the few Victorian artists to get rich from his work within his lifetime, practically specialized in them.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Love Disarmed (1885)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Amour a l’affut (Love on the Look Out) (1890)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – L’Amour Vainqueur (1886)

One of the most reproduced images of the modern age is this portrait of Cupid and Psyche as children. I’ve seen it featured on everything from dishes and t-shirts to puzzles and handbags.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau – L’Amour et Psyche, enfants (The First Kiss) (1890)

In fact, the image which holds the record for being the most reproduced image in history, and the focus of the very first post I ever made at Pigtails in Paint, is this painting by Maxfield Parrish in which one of the models was his then 10-year-old daughter, Jean.  Incidentally, the other model in this image (or at least her face) was the granddaughter of famous Nebraskan Democrat William Jennings Bryan. During Bryan’s time the Democrats were the states’ rights party—basically what the Republicans are now—and the Republicans were the federalist party. Their positions would eventually become reversed in the Civil Rights era.

Maxfield Parrish – Daybreak (1922)

Maxfield Parrish – Daybreak (1922) (detail)

This blog is, if nothing else, a testament to precisely how deep and wide this tradition has been. And that presents a problem to certain parties who would like to keep the masses ignorant of this fact. Hence, the very reason why Pigtails’ existence is so vital. Now, we could stick to the more politically safe works here, but we occasionally flirt with those pieces that are a little dangerous. It’s important to recognize that even dangerous art has validity and value. As Ron pointed out, we were never so naive as to believe that this work would not be challenged. But it is sniveling and cowardly for Shadow Nazis to try to stamp us out by anonymously bullying our providers. We’ve been on the web for years, no doubt closely observed by the authorities. Everything we post is legally vetted and protected art. We have never operated in the shadows and many of the artists we’ve featured are friends of the site—that should demonstrate that we have no ill intentions and nothing to hide. There is not, and never has been, anything untoward going on either in front of or behind the scenes, and I would proudly defend each and every artist and ever piece of art that we’ve shared on this site in a court of law.

The people who are attacking us know this very well. They know that attempting to go through the legal channels would get them nowhere because there is nothing illegal in what we are doing, and the First Amendment, as has been demonstrated in case after case, is on our side. Our attackers thus have no recourse but to make false insinuations about our intent (which, of course, is libel—if they weren’t hiding like the cowards they are they would be open to lawsuits for defamation of character) and to lie to and bully our providers, to scare them into believing things that are not true. The law is on our side and they know it. Our blog would never had lasted as long as it has if that weren’t the case. But these insecure, ignorant fools, most of whom no doubt wouldn’t know their Picasso from a hole in the ground, have taken it upon themselves to equate our well-researched and well-respected site with purveyors of child porn. It’s tragic enough that they can’t recognize legitimate art when they see it, but to label it child porn reveals the utmost disrespect and contempt for the long line of great artists from antiquity to present who have created this fantastic art, as well as everyone who has ever enjoyed it, who have now been reduced to little more than leering and drooling Humbert Humberts for ever getting any pleasure or amusement, no matter how innocent, from the sight of a nude child.

Time and again it has been proven that these sorts of people, the majority of whom are borderline illiterate if we’re being honest, have little understanding of the psychological appeal of the naked youth beyond their own vulgar and limited imaginations. Because of their junior high-level of sexual maturity, they cannot fathom that nudity does not always equate to sex, particularly with respect to children. But even when there is some level of the erotic explored in the underage form, it does not inherently mean that the child is being exploited or that the artist or observers exploring these concepts have perverse intentions, no more than Vladimir Nabokov was laying out his own sexual fantasies when he wrote his masterpiece Lolita. It is simply immature and stupid to think this way.

Grow up, people, and recognize that your simplistic understanding of these issues does not make you right. I realize that your impotency in the face of real-world problems can be temporarily ignored when you manage to take down a website you just don’t like, but your moral outrage is completely misdirected here. In a court of law you would lose, and that is no miscarriage or aberration. It has been tested many, many times. The law is not wrong; you are. Get over it and find something better to do with your time.

‘Daybreak’ Records

Yes, the pun was intended.

The cover for these albums are a portion of Maxfield Parrish’s ‘Daybreak’, helping to cement that illustration’s place as the most reproduced artistic image of the 20th century, and possibly ever.  Is it ironic that the most reproduced image of the last one hundred years features a nude young girl, given the extant moral panic over child nudity in art?  Only if you are utterly ignorant of the last several hundred years of art history.  At any rate, there are at least three that I know of.

Dalis Car (or Dali’s Car) is the first; this band’s singer was Peter Murphy (formerly of Bauhaus, though he’s been a solo artist for quite some time now) and it released only one album, The Waking Hour, before it broke up.  Murphy and multi-instrumentalist Mick Karn briefly reunited in 2010 to begin recording a new album for the band, though it was never fully realized, as Karn contracted cancer and passed away in January of 2011.  There was enough material, however, for an EP, which is set to come out next month.


Maxfield Parrish – Dalis Car – The Waking Hour (cover)

The next one was for an album by French composer Saint-Preux called The Last Opera.  Classical-style music isn’t really my thing so I can’t tell you whether this is any good or not.  There appear to be two different versions of this album cover, but I couldn’t find a high-quality copy of both of them, only one.

Maxfield Parrish - Saint-Preux - The Last Opera (cover)

Maxfield Parrish – Saint-Preux – The Last Opera (cover)

The last is for the Moody Blues, a band I grew up on as my dad was a fan.  This one isn’t an exact copy of the illustration but rather a reworking of Parrish’s design by someone else.  I don’t know who.

The Moody Blues - The Present (cover)

The Moody Blues – The Present (cover)

Edit: In researching this piece further, I came across an interesting analysis of it by Scott M. McDanielJay Hambridge developed a theory on the concept of dynamic symmetry invented by the ancient Greeks (see: golden ratio and golden rectangle)—it’s all very mathematical and precise, but it works very well in application to design. Given Parrish’s classical setting for “Daybreak” it makes sense that he would utilize dynamic symmetry for this piece. Note also that this scene fits the theme of the classical idyll, which we’ve discussed here before. For that reason I’m also assigning this work in the Neoclassical category.

Wikipedia: Maxfield Parrish

Wikipedia: Saint-Preux

Wikipedia: Dalis Car

Wikipedia: The Moody Blues


From Bill Tree on March 8, 2012
I’ve never been sure whether the nude in that painting was a young boy or girl. I’d say it’s androgynous in the same way that Bouguereau’s Cupid painting is (though we assume cupid is a male, you couldn’t be sure by looking). Is there historical reference to it being a girl?

From pipstarr72 on March 8, 2012
Refer to the first link in the article (which happens to be to the very first post I made on my blog)—it is most definitely a girl. The model for the girl was Parrish’s own daughter, Jean. She posed for a few other pieces around the same time, in which you can see that her hair is rather short in all of them. You’ll also note that there are subtle cues that this is a female child, if you look closely.

We’ll Always Have Parrish: Maxfield Parrish’s “Daybreak” and Others

One of the most recognized names from the Golden Age of illustration, Maxfield Parrish is known primarily for producing remarkable images of nature and fairy tale illustrations.  His most famous and highly valued work is “Daybreak,” painted in 1922, which shows a nude, slightly pubescent young girl leaning over a young woman who reclines on the floor of the portico of a Greek temple.  Thus, the setting is classical, and in keeping with the Greeks’ attention to symmetry, the painting is itself highly symmetrical, with two columns dividing the piece into a self-contained triptych.

It’s fitting that Parrish should be the first artist featured on the blog, as he holds the reputation for being the most reproduced artist in the entire history of art, and “Daybreak,” as I said, is his most notable work.  That in itself is fascinating enough, but more can be said of the painting, particularly its models (who may well be considered the most reproduced youngsters in art history.)  The younger girl was his daughter, Jean Parrish, whereas the older girl was, in fact, a composite of two different people.  The body was that of Sue Lewin, his housekeeper and friend and another recurring model throughout his work.  The face, however, belonged to Kitty Owen, a companion of Jean’s and the granddaughter of statesman William Jennings Bryan.

Maxfield Parrish – Daybreak (1922)

Maxfield Parrish – Daybreak (1922) (detail)

Before she was captured in that famed pose in “Daybreak,” Jean Parrish had already been used as the model for the little girl resting on the edge of the pool in “Egypt,” part of a series created for the Edison Mazda calendars, and a year after that ( fully clothed this time and confidently facing the viewer ) in “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary,” which accompanied the nursery rhyme of the same name.  I’m not aware of any other paintings for which Jean posed, but it seems likely that I’m overlooking a few.  I am not, in any case, fully versed in Parrish’s entire catalog of works.

Maxfield Parrish – Egypt

Maxfield Parrish – Egypt (detail)

Maxfield Parrish – Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary (1921)

These two images are the wrong dates to have been Jean.  The first may be Kitty, who was a few years older than Jean, but I haven’t a clue who the model for the second image might have been.

Maxfield Parrish – Girl with Elves (1918)

Maxfield Parrish – What They Talked About (1899)

There are a ton of online resources for Parrish and his work. Here are a couple:

Maxfield Parrish Online Gallery

Wikipedia: Maxfield Parrish