One from Eugène Delacroix

Just a little reminder that almost every well-known and first-rate figurative artist who worked before the 20th century created at least one image of a nude child. Here is a drawing by French Romantic-era painter Eugène Delacroix, whose most famous work is Liberty Leading the People, an image that has become virtually synonymous with the French Revolution.

Delacroix was born in 1798 in the French commune of Charenton-Saint-Maurice. Though his father was purported to be Charles-Henri Delacroix (a general in Napoleon’s army), his real father was probably the famous French bishop and politician Talleyrand, who was a friend of the family. He began his art career by studying under Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, and his influences include Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, and especially Théodore Géricault, who innovated Romanticism in art. In addition to his Romantic images, he also experimented with Orientalism, eventually producing over 100 images featuring the peoples of North Africa.

But we, of course, are most interested in the following image, a drawing I literally couldn’t find any information on other than the artist and title. I did find two separate versions of it, so I’m sharing both. Though it’s difficult to tell for sure, the girl, who I’d guess to be somewhere between age three and six, appears to be leaning in a corner of a room.

Eugène Delacroix – Enfant nu (1)

Eugène Delacroix – Enfant nu (2)

Update: Christian has taken the time to do further research into this image and was able to discover what the text at the bottom reads. Check out his comment in the section below this post for that, and for links to the source of the information (in French), as well as a larger version of the image itself and a small version of the painting that this eventually was used for, a Madonna and Child scene.

One thing that struck me about the image initially was how plump the girl’s thighs were. This is not out of keeping with Delacroix’s overall style, but given the degree of realism in this drawing otherwise, it felt like a deliberate exaggeration. Now it makes sense. It seems Delacroix had always planned for this model to stand in for the infant Jesus. Looking at the painting, one can see he made further modifications: the body overall is shorter and plumper, the head larger, and of course, he chose to obscure the child’s genitalia behind a cloth. That was likely always going to be his plan, which is why it didn’t matter that the original model was female rather than male. There is also an argument to be made that he may have chosen a female purposely, since feminine children were already perceived as prettier and more graceful than masculine children by then, and those are qualities a Romantic-era artist would likely wish to portray in the Christ-child. I would not at all be surprised if this was a somewhat common practice for Madonna and Child artworks created from the late Renaissance on.  – Pip

Black Dolls, the Deborah Neff Collection

A doll is more than a toy. It can represent various things: an ideal version of oneself, an intimate companion, a butt or whipping boy, a super-hero, a training for future parenting, etc. Generally dolls take the shape of European babies or children, often girls.

How do dolls relate to race in the United States, a country deeply marked first by slavery, then by segregation? In the 1940s, Mamie Phipps and her husband Kenneth Clark, two African-American social psychologists, designed and conducted a series of experiments known colloquially as the “doll tests” to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children. They described the protocol in a scientific article: the children (aged 3 to 7) were shown two dolls, identical except for the colour of the skin and the hair, then asked several questions. The questions involved which ones had certain qualities (“nice,” “bad,” “that you like best,” etc.), the race of the dolls, and which one looked like them. Most children, while identifying the race of the dolls and recognising their resemblance to the black one, attributed positive qualities to the white doll. The following video shows this experiment:

This test was recently performed in A Girl Like Me, a 2005 documentary by Kiri Davis about African-American teenage girls.

The relation between dolls and race is at the heart of the exhibition “Black Dolls” showing the Deborah Neff collection of dolls and photographs, which was held from February 23 to May 20 in La maison rouge in Paris.

African-American children often had white dolls, as can be seen in the following two photographs:

Norwick, Conn. – untitled, NEFF 10020 (c.1900–25)

Untitled, back inscription “Helen Dorothy Elmer Jess”, NEFF 10007 (c.1908–1920)

Were there black dolls? What did they look like? First we have the racist stereotype; as writes Robin Bernstein about the “minstrel mask” of racist theatrical performance, “it renders skin jet-black, transforms eyes into oversized pops of white, and stretches lips into a fire-engine red vortex.” A gallery of such caricatures can be seen here.

Then there is the “darkened European doll,” a doll with facial features and clothing corresponding to a European person, but with a dark-coloured skin. Finally there is a long tradition of hand-made black dolls giving a more dignified view of African-Americans. Deborah Neff collected hundreds of them, most of them made between 1840 and 1940. Here are three dolls from her collection:

Cape Cod Mass. – Well dressed dolls with painted faces, NEFF 335/336 (c.1890–1910)

Lady in beaded gown, NEFF 68 (c.1895)

Generally these dolls were made by African-American women, in particular in the South. One would expect that they would be given to their children, but one can find several photographs and paintings of white children with black dolls, as shown here:

Burnham Studio, Norway, Maine – untitled, back inscription “Mary Jones and Dinah”, NEFF 10014 (c.1870–85)

Untitled, side inscription “Jean Frantz”, NEFF 10001 (c.1855–65)

Probably many white children in the South got such dolls from their black nannies. However in the North, anti-slavery activists also made black dolls to be sold during fund-raising events, so parents would intentionally give black dolls to their children as a token of support for black emancipation.

A strange configuration is the “topsy-turvy” or “twinning” doll, which was popular in the 19th century, especially in the South. It has no legs, but two heads, two pairs of arms and two torsos, black on one side and white on the opposite side. See here:

Minimal topsy-turvy doll, NEFF 241 (c.1920–30)

At the shared waist was attached a long reversible skirt. Flipped one way, it hid one side, as shown below:

Topsy-turvy doll (1)

Topsy-turvy doll (2)

In the words of a 1903 advertisement, “Turn you up / Turn you back / First you’re white / Then you’re black.” According to Patricia Williams, these dolls made by enslaved black women expressed the cruel ambiguities of their motherhood: some of their children, also slaves, resulted from their rape by their white master, while they had to serve as nannies for the free children that the same master had with his legitimate white wife.

According to Deborah Neff, other less credible explanations have been given, that black children on plantations were not allowed to play with white dolls, or the opposite, that they were were not allowed to play with black dolls. Another theory is that they descend from German “hex” (witch) dolls, which made their way to Pennsylvania: they had one animal side and an opposite human side, one for casting spells and the other for curing ailments.

At the beginning of the 20th century, black militants encouraged the manufacture of black dolls as a way of teaching African-American children the dignity of their origins. Anyway, the tradition of sewing dolls at home disappeared after World War II, and plastic replaced cotton; so there are few recent dolls in the collection.

I end with five pictures of the exhibition in La maison rouge, Paris:

Black Dolls exhibition, La maison rouge, Paris (1)

Black Dolls exhibition, La maison rouge, Paris (2)

Black Dolls exhibition, La maison rouge, Paris (3)

Black Dolls exhibition, La maison rouge, Paris (4)

In the 5th photograph, we see at the back a photograph by J.C. Patton, from around 1915, of a middle-class black family; the little girl holds a white doll. In front of it several “topsy-turvy” dolls are exhibited.

Black Dolls exhibition, La maison rouge, Paris (5)

Interested readers will find the above material, and much more, in the exhibition book:

Nora Philippe, editor: Black Dolls, la collection Deborah Neff, co-published by Fage and La maison rouge, February 2018, ISBN 978 2 84975 497 9.

Credits: The citations in the text come from the above-mentioned book. The above photographs of children with dolls and the shown dolls are from the Deborah Neff collection, their catalogue number (after the prefix ‘NEFF’) is given in the caption. The two photographs of “topsy-turvy” dolls with flipping clothes come from the Imgrum page of Nora Philippe, curator of the exhibition. The last 5 photographs come from the web page of La maison rouge devoted to the exhibition.

Sofie went ‘wheeez’

(Unknown photographer) – Sofie (2018)

Recently on Thursday May 3rd an up-to-then unknown girl of 8 became famous for a few days. Sofie, who is from Spaarndam in the Netherlands started hanging several meters high on a bar in front of a bridge to a sluice. One might expect a stunt like to be attempted by a boy, but it wasn’t.

It is unknown whether she wanted to remain anonymous, at least until she had the chance to climb some real mountains. Suddenly she was lifted to a high altitude and found herself having a short adventure, in a manner of speaking. The whole thing lasted about one minute.

After the incident, her friend Noa said that Sofie suddenly went ‘wheeez’ into the air, holding on to the bar meant for stopping cars and pedestrians, like Sofie, from falling into the channel below as boats passed through.

(Unknown photographer) – Sofie and Noa (2018)

After the boat passed, the bridge went down again, but the bar was still too high for Sophie. “Like a silly one”, said Noa’s and Step’s (another friend of Sophie’s) fathers said afterward. The sluice operator realizing what was happening stopped the bar from going all the way back up. The father had warned the girls three times about playing with the bar when it was about to go up. He and a bystander quickly stood under her, pleading for Sofie to let go so they could catch her; but Sofie said she could not because her hands were too sticky, the very reason she went up in the first place.

She, Noa and Step were there on their way to an ice cream shop, which was subsequently delayed several hours after the aforementioned events, much to their dismay. Only once the bar was brought all the way down, did she finally return to earth. The father had some sharp words for her and she cried, but she also got a hug.

It was her practice of sport-climbing walls and climbing trees that helped her avoid a tragedy. But it did not save her from, as her mother explained, nightmares afterwards. A journalist asked Sophie what she would tell other kids about her experience. She cautioned that (translated from a YouTube clip), “Now, I would never do this. You would think it is just fun. But it is very, very high”. Here Sofie speaks about it in her native Dutch. In the video, a few boys could be heard saying, “We’re used to a lot here, but this we never saw before.

Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy

I have thought of doing a post about Nancy for several years, but for two reasons I found it very hard to start. One reason is that many would not consider that comic strip to be on the same level as the fine art usually featured in Pigtails. Even as comic strip art, Nancy is minimalist. The gags are corny and although I loved Nancy, most of my friends thought the strip was dumb. The second reason is that there is so much material that it is difficult to choose a few representative examples for a short post. Ernie Bushmiller drew Nancy from 1933 to 1982, and other artists have continued the strip after Bushmiller died.

It is this lasting popularity of Nancy that makes me believe that it should be recognized in Pigtails. Nancy may well be the best known little girl in 20th century American art. By 1948, the strip appeared in 450 newspapers with a total circulation of 21 million. At the peak of Nancy’s popularity, in the 1970s, she was in 880 newspapers worldwide. Most papers were read by multiple members of the family, and the comics were read to those who had not yet learned to read. Perhaps 100 million people followed Nancy’s adventures each day. Even if Bushmiller is not in the same class as Da Vinci or Rembrandt, Pigtails in Paint would not be complete without a sample of his work.

Ernie Bushmiller was born in the Bronx, New York in 1905. His parents were immigrants; his father was from Germany and his mother from Ireland. Ernie’s father was an artist, a painter, who had to work at menial jobs in a struggle to support the family. Ernie learned two important things from his father. First, he learned an appreciation for the graphic arts and for literature. Second, he learned that it is difficult to support a family with fine art. To appeal to the masses, art should be simple and direct. Nancy certainly is.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1963)

Ernie quit school at age 14 and went to work as a copy boy at the New York World newspaper. At night he attended art classes. He was paid nine dollars per week, but he later said that he would have paid the paper to let him hang around. He loved working at the paper, where he worked with such cartoonist greats as Rudolph Dirks. Ernie’s big opportunity came in 1925 when he took over drawing the Fritzi Ritz comic. Fritzi Ritz was a liberated young 1920s flapper. In 1933 Fritzi’s orphan niece, Nancy, came to live with her. At first, Nancy was intended to be a temporary part of the strip. However, Nancy was so popular that she became a permanent character in Fritzi Ritz. She was more popular than Fritzi herself. Just as Popeye ousted Castor Oyl as the protagonist of Thimble Theater, and Snuffy Smith took over the Barney Google strip, Nancy became the focus of the Fritzi Ritz strip. Aunt Fritzi was relegated to a secondary role as the adult authority figure, and in 1938 the name of the strip was officially changed to Nancy.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1961)

What was it about the little girl that made her so loved by the readers?  She was obviously more popular than the adult woman Fritzi.  The little boy who was the lead male in the strip, Sluggo, was there only to support Nancy.  Soon after Nancy appeared, there was a story in the Fritzi Ritz strip about an entrepreneur marketing a doll modeled after Nancy.  Since dolls in the 1930s were generally girl dolls, this may be why Bushmiller chose to include a niece instead of a nephew in Fritzi Ritz.  A girl probably works better in the later strips as well.  I believe that the creator of the Little Lulu comic, Marjorie Henderson Buell, was correct when she noted that a mischievous little girl can get away with stunts that look cute, but would look boorish if done by a boy.

As the Nancy strip matured, the style became bolder and more minimalist. Everything in the art was there to support the gag. Everything was explicit. If the scene was a circus side show, the tents would be labeled in large capital letters “CIRCUS” and “SIDE SHOW.”

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1970)

The strip above, from 1970, is a good example of the Bushmiller’s humor. There were a lot of hippies in 1970. There were also dwarfs (called midgets in 1970). Hippies were seen as foolish and lazy and were the subject of many jokes. However, simply being a hippie was not funny; the hippie had to do something particularly foolish or lazy to make the joke. Simply being a dwarf was not funny either; the dwarf had to do something unique to cope with his small stature to make the joke. The point of this strip is not that we should laugh at the dwarf hippie but that we should laugh at Nancy for believing such an outrageous thing as a dwarf hippie is possible. Note that the scene is near a circus side show. The “freaks” exhibited at carnivals and side shows in 1970 were usually fake, and at best greatly exaggerated. This “midget hippie” is really a midget, but is only pretending to be a hippie for the side show.  In spite of his lack of facial hair, we know he is a dwarf and not a child because he smokes a cigar. Normally, children do not smoke, and in the world of Nancy, everything is normal. One of the keys to understanding the humor is to understand that Nancy’s world is more normal than reality. Things that would be slightly unusual in real life (such as a dwarf hippie) are often amazing or impossible in a Nancy strip. Even something as simple as wearing a wig is weird enough to make Sluggo’s hat fly off of his head.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1972)

You can read more Nancy strips here. To better understand the art and subtle humor, you may want to read How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden, and The Best of Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy by Brian Walker.

Nancy has had some strong competition. Little Lulu was another popular children’s humor strip featuring a young girl. Little Lulu was in some ways like Nancy, but the plots were a little more complex and the humor was more sophisticated. Lulu has also starred in animated cartoons. Many would say Little Lulu was funnier than Nancy, but Nancy’s humor was unique. Little Orphan Annie was an adventure strip with a girl protagonist. The surreal art that portrayed people with no pupils in the eyeballs was instantly recognizable. Annie’s exciting adventures made her another popular comic strip character. Annie also has been in a musical and movies. Shizuka Minamoto, the female lead of the Doraemon comic strip, may be as well-known in Japan as Nancy is in America. The Japanese humor in Doraemon never achieved the success of Nancy in America. When the male lead in Doraemon embarrassed Shizuka by walking in when she was naked, which happened very often, it was innocent children’s humor in Japan, but would be seen differently in America.  The Doraemon panel below was translated by Forgotten Scans.

Fujiko F. Fujio – Doraemon Vol. 12 Chapter 220 last panel (1976)

Nancy has been seven years old for 85 years. She is still popular, and her comic strip is still in production. I expect she will be in the comics for many decades to come.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1959)

Random Images: Nadezhda Kornienko

One of our readers made this interesting submission of a painting located at the The First City Clinical Hospital in Moscow. Perhaps one of our readers with some expertise in Russian painting can tell us more. I am told that it is hanging in the foyer of the reception room in Building 5.


Nadezhda Kornienko – In the Palace of Culture Ballet Class (1956)

[180717] I really love the teamwork here. Arizona did a reverse lookup on the image and found out the name of the artist and the particular piece. Christian confirmed which is the best quality image online used to replace the original submitted photo here. And another reader says that the one hanging in the hospital mentioned above is not the original, but a good copy. -Ron

August von Pettenkofen

The Austrian painter August von Pettenkofen was born in Vienna on May 10, 1822. In 1834, giving up a military career, he entered the Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied with Leopold Kupelwieser and Franz Eybl. During the Revolutions of 1848, he became a military painter and, while performing his duties, he spent some time in Szolnok, Hungary. This influenced his art, as many of his paintings and drawings depict the uneventful life of Hungarian peasants and gypsies, sometimes with a touch of melancholy. He was admitted as a member of the Vienna Academy in 1866 and, became in 1872 an honorary member of the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich. He died at the “Sanatorium Loew” in Vienna on March 21, 1889.

I present here three of his works. The first one, in the Hermitage Museum, is famous and typical of his depiction of Gypsies, emphasising their poverty.

August von Pettenkofen – Gypsy children (1855)

The next one shows strikingly the squalor of their living conditions.

August von Pettenkofen – A gypsy girl seeking lice (1854)

The third one, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with its intimate subject, departs from his usual depiction of rural life. I could not find the year of its making.

August von Pettenkofen – Study of a Nude Young Girl

Many works by von Pettenkofen can be seen on Wikimedia Commons.

The Little Lowbrow Girl: Arwassa

I have been meaning to do this series for years, but after I “retired” from Pigtails and then returned, I had already forgotten about it. A recent conversation with Ron spurred my memory, however, and so I will do it now, starting with Yolanda Pérez Villanueva, a.k.a. Arwassa.

Before I get into Arwassa’s bio, I want to explain a bit about what lowbrow art is.  The lowbrow or pop surrealism movement began in California among the surfer and hot rod culture and was aimed squarely at that culture; it’s therefore considered a populist art movement, unlike movements such as abstract expressionism and the like, which are often regarded (correctly or incorrectly) as elitist. The art is characterized by the juxtaposition of “fine art” concepts or styles with kitsch, comics—especially underground comix—cartoons and other pop cultural ephemera, often in bizarre or humorous ways.  More recently, Japanese culture and anime-style art have made their way into the movement.  The founding father of lowbrow is usually considered to be Robert Williams, who facetiously adopted the title The Lowbrow Art of Robert Williams for his first book of collected art, in response to the fact that at the time no major galleries or museums would display his art, considering it trashy and tasteless.  The name stuck and became associated with the movement as a whole, even though Williams himself has since rejected it in application to his own work.  (If Williams is the movement’s father, then its godfather is surely Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, famous for his Kustom Kulture art and especially for the character Rat Fink.)

In my twenty-something years of collecting and studying art, I tend to notice recurring themes and subjects in particular movements.  Though Williams himself was never much interested in the subject, one thing I’ve noticed about lowbrow art is the constant presence of little girls in it.  But here’s the thing: in these images little girls are almost always subverted or perverted in some way, especially by another prominent example of the movement, Mark Ryden.  My hunch is that this was/is a psycho-social reaction to an increasing cultural awareness of the sexuality of children, particularly the young girl.  In that respect, it is no accident that Ryden has become by far the most famous member of the lowbrow/pop surrealist subculture.  We’ll get to Ryden specifically in another post.  Meanwhile, let’s examine the work of Arwassa, who is not directly involved in the movement but whose style fits pretty comfortably within it.

Yolanda Pérez was born in Valencia, Spain in 1981 and took to art at a young age, eventually graduating from Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos de Valencia with a degree in Fine Arts. She specializes in vector art and illustration, as well as sculpture, and she occasionally writes stories in addition to creating visual art, with her main subject being the modern young girl in all her emotional, psychological and cultural complexity. I could say more here, but I’ll let her website explain:

She has always been fascinated by the creation of complex and conflicting characters. Her girls are a mix of little funny girls and dangerous tyrants governing in a liquid and dreamlike world. Nobody could guess if they are benevolent or evil beings. As if they were gods, seduce, play and devour all with impunity.

Actually, this sort of contradictory dichotomy pretty well describes most of the little girls depicted in the lowbrow or pop surrealist style. So what is behind this complex interpretation of the young girl? I see it as a modern incarnation of the virgin/whore dichotomy that was applied to women in Symbolist art.  Symbolism addressed a variety of topics relevant to western culture at the time; the ambivalent view of women and the growing awareness of their inner lives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was only one of them, but it was an important one. Likewise, lowbrow art’s confrontation with the modern fear and ambivalence toward a burgeoning awareness of children’s, particularly young girls’, inner life including their proto-sexuality, is, I think, an overlooked but crucial dimension to understanding what is happening here. And as with the Symbolist movement, there tends to be recurring concepts or symbols both within the individual artist’s oeuvre and within the movement as a whole.

One of the most common elements in Arwassa’s work is water. Her girls, particularly the fiendish sharp-toothed ones, usually dwell in shallow murky waters. This is a metaphor for the unconscious mind and its nebulous and sometimes sinister motivations, or at least our perception of them as such. It’s no accident that Arwassa’s girls generally have their lower halves submerged while their upper halves merrily bob on the surface. We are firmly in Freudian territory here, or its pop equivalent.

In the second of these two images, her hair transforms into tentacles once they fall below the waterline and then reemerge to torment the little ship. The kraken as little girl: now that’s an original take on the sea monster! A thoroughly modern one. Medieval man, for example, barely registered the existence of little girls, much less envisioned them as any sort of threat to their masculinity or to the larger social order. Not so today. These tiny femme fatales are now outsized monsters to some. It is reasonable to ascertain that Arwassa’s work is merely a record of this state of affairs rather than an endorsement of it, but I could certainly be mistaken.

The jewelry, gold chains, blue teeth, facial “tattoos” and neck braces add a fetishistic element to these girls, giving them some edgy personality.

Arwassa – Glamour

Arwassa – On the Surface

These weird purple fruits pop up in several of Arwassa’s images. Fruit suggests fecundity (‘fruitfulness’ is an apt synonym), prosperity and, in the case of a certain biblical fruit—usually depicted as an apple but more likely intended to be a pomegranate—temptation.The fruits are growing in a swamp: what we have here is a peculiar sort of temptation fed by the dim, possibly dangerous waters of the deep unconscious. Not a bad way of summarizing modern society’s dread of children’s sexuality. Unwanted desires may arise from our unconscious minds despite our best efforts—that’s the horror of child nudity for many people, the fear that simply seeing a child’s naked body might trigger unwanted desires in them.

In the image below, the fruits literally take the place of the demonic little temptress’s still nonexistent breasts. The title is as much a reference to the girl as it is to the actual fruits. The butterfly “pins” in her hair, which could almost be real butterflies, root her even more in weird organicness. She is a phenomenon of nature, barely removed from her innate wildness and therefore dangerous to the status quo.

Arwassa – Fruit

Arwassa – Summertime

Of course, Arwassa does not shy away from showing us the young girl’s nude body, although she stops short of depicting their full femininity, choosing a doll-like smoothness instead. This is not uncommon. Indeed, in many cases the artist (consciously or unconsciously) plays into their own discomfort and depicts the children as actual dolls. Trevor Brown has done this. So has Mark Ryden, and many others. Arwassa could easily have gotten around this by simply giving these girls fish tails, but she chose to redefine the concept of mermaid here, which is telling. Her only real concession to the traditional mermaid then is that the girls are devoid of human genitalia.

Arwassa – Mermaids

Snails are an oft recurring symbol in Arwassa’s work. Snails can symbolize a number of things depending on the culture: carrying ones’s home on his back (essentially, being resourceful and content wherever one is), patience, bridging the physical and spiritual worlds (because snails can live on land or in water), even the overarching cycle of time and existence. The Christian tradition tends to view the humble snail as a symbol of sloth and laziness—unfairly so, since the snail is not slow by choice but rather by design. Many Medieval illuminated manuscripts mysteriously feature a knight doing battle with a snail. To me the snails in Arwassa’s art represent things of inherent disgustingness, and thus an attempt to tag little girls as inherently disgusting themselves. Notice how these girls treat snails like pets, as if they have a certain intimacy with creepiness. It’s pure projection, of course.

I believe too that these critters are intended to be envoys from the depths of ourselves, not so much bridging Heaven and Earth as bridging the conscious and unconscious realms. Snails are an unholy marriage between the sacred and the disturbing. That’s not far from how modern society views children on the whole. Kids are often fascinated by snails, many of them not even minding the slimy trail the snails leave behind on their skin as they move. I’ve been around enough children to know that they consistently disprove the traditionalist belief that there exists some fundamental rightness and wrongness about reality itself, and that kids are somehow plugged into it.

Arwassa – Snail Queen

Arwassa – Seashell

But snails aren’t the only animals that little girls react to in Arwassa’s art. Fish and other sea dwellers also appear with some regularity. Unlike snails, who are equally at home on land and in water, fish are strictly creatures of the deep. Fish of course have scads of meaning in Christian semiotics, but I doubt any of that is relevant here. Fish are not only sub-aqueous, they are also slippery, slimy and unpleasant to touch. In the following image our girl encounters an anglerfish, one of the most mysterious and deepest dwelling of all fish, and one of the most intimidating. What does it mean that the fish has a treasure chest in its mouth? I suspect the answer to that is rather too obvious. You don’t need to consider anything as crude as vagina dentata to see the dangers both metaphorical and real in “sexualizing” young girls—which is to say, recognizing them as sexual beings—but I guess it helps.

Arwassa – Treasure

Arwassa – The River Maiden

For our purposes here we are going to consider whales as honorary fish, though in reality they are mammals and must breathe air. Arwassa confuses the matter by depicting the whales as being the size of fish, or more likely, the girl as being whale-sized. More fetishistic jewelry and tattoos as well.

Arwassa – Whales

Fish may be friends to Arwassa’s girls, but they can also be lunch. Even pet goldfish may not be spared. Again, the wildness and unpredictability of the girls is in evidence. They may look cute and harmless, but their conscience isn’t fully formed yet. This illustration of Arwassa’s more than any other keys into Japanese manga and anime, where the little kawaii girl is queen . . . and occasional temptress.

Arwassa – Kawaii Love Fish

She kisses the serpent, which we know to be the animal that led to the Fall of Man, sealing their wedlock. But what if the serpent is simply a part of her? What if the devil that makes little girls do things they shouldn’t—like being too attractive to adults—is a mere toy girls play with sometimes without fully understanding what it is they’re playing with?

Arwassa – Married with the Snake

Rainbows are ordinarily symbols of peace, prosperity, progress and in the modern political context, sexual diversity. It gets processed into sweet treats for Arwassa’s water-loving girls. So in the end these little cat mask-wearing predators make mincemeat of modern values that seem absolute on their surface but begin to melt around the edges under the light of scrutiny. And under the tongues of the naive.

Arwassa – Juice

Arwassa – Popsicle

I especially like this next one. She is very Alice-like in her blue dress and long blonde hair. She could almost be standing in the pool of tears, devouring a cupcake that says “Eat Me.”

Arwassa – Cupcake

For Arwassa’s girls, rainbows, once gorged upon, can be vomited up again to add a little color to one’s surroundings. At first this girl appears to be an angel, but look closer. Her angel wings are borrowed. The problem with children is that they can easily be perceived the wrong way, especially in a provocative context or state (like being nude). We encounter that here at Pigtails quite regularly, don’t we?

Arwassa – (Title Unknown)

A day at the fair for these little girls is not what you’d think it be. The girls frolicking without  clothes in their own damp, dismal homes is one thing, but going to the fair? That’s a whole new threat level. Public nudity is not something most people can handle without being triggered, even when the nudies are just children. But not only are they naked, their choice of snacks reveal them to be wild carnivorous creatures: another goldfish (newly won) and raw meat. Even the girl feasting on a normal treat to be found at fairs, a caramel apple, she has stuck to the top of her head and sucking the sticky goo out of her own hair like some kind of monkey.

Arwassa – A Day at the Fair

Finally, in Arwassa’s take on Little Red Riding Hood, the child with the famous blood-hued fashion accessory, far from being afraid of the devious and hungry wolf, embraces it! I’ve seen several images, mostly humorous, where Red violently murders the wolf. I have never seen one where she was the wolf’s friend. That says much about girls in Arwassa’s world.

Arwassa – Little Red Riding Hood

Maiden Voyages: July 2018

After my return from visiting an artist friend in the UK, I had intended to share a number of interesting and relevant details, but alas, my hours are limited and I have not gotten to it yet. I want to do it properly as there is a lot to cover so you can expect to hear the details in the next couple of weeks—after completing the Brian Partridge post.

The first item here is a last minute addition. Robert Nelson, husband of Poli Papapetrou, suddenly replied to an inquiry I made in April.

Legacy of a Deserving Artist: As mentioned before, my first artist friend, Polixeni Papapetrou passed away this April leaving a number of bereaved family, friends and fans leaving a few questions up in the air. Her husband Robert has just graciously replied to some specific questions I had of particular interest to her adoring friends and fans. First of all, Poli’s website will be maintained indefinitely. At first glance, I had thought there was no accompanying text to her latest installation ‘My heart’ which is to be found here. During the memorial service held on April 17th, Robert read this poem at Poli’s graveside.  He also wrote three dedications to Poli which can be  found here. A book dedicated to the artist is indeed being produced by Thames & Hudson but there is no news on a release date as yet. A while back, Poli was kind enough to share a copy of her doctoral dissertation, A studio investigation into the theatricality and performative aspects of the child subject in photography. I had thought to have it published here but I am told it is already available online from the Monash University Library. Thank you again Robert for updating us on the latest developments.

The Problems of a Federal System: Coincidences are a remarkable thing. Upon returning to the US, I got a stark illustration of the differences between a monarchy and a federated republic. The Alabama authorities conducted a raid of Chris Madaio’s apartment. If this were an FBI raid, there would be nothing to be concerned about: a couple of computers and a portable drive containing his own legitimate work. The problem in this case is that Alabama law has a stricter interpretation of child pornography which includes non-suggestive photos to topless children (some of which have been published on Pigtails). With luck, this will simply be seen as a misunderstanding; but if not, this demonstrates a vindictive desire to continually punish people despite good faith efforts at rehabilitation. This kind of variation is not seen in the UK where Her Majesty’s law is the law of the land and cannot be made looser or more strict by the individual counties.

Part of a Proper Education? Here’s something you don’t see anymore. Apart from the general neglect of education in the West, people’s priorities have really changed. We no longer concern ourselves with children’s posture. This is a mixed blessing because it is now generally believed that the mental functions are most important; but if correcting our posture helps prevent bona fide health problems in the future, why not do it? Whatever your views on the subject, take a look at this charming 1920s video where children demonstrate many of the proposed corrective exercises.

More Modeling News: This month’s installment is a blog featuring articles about the issue of children photographed in the nude. Many of these topics have been discussed here before and the blog’s emphasis seems to be on anecdotes about law enforcement and the current debate on legality in the US.

Sigmund Walter Hampel

Sigmund Walter Hampel – Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter, Ulrike Hampel, aged 4 (c.1908)

The painter Sigmund Walter Hampel was born on July 17, 1867 in Vienna. Between 1885 and 1888 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts (Akademie der bildenden Künste) in Vienna with Heinrich von Angeli, August Eisenmenger and Siegmund L’Allemand, but he rebelled against their teaching methods and was expelled. He became thus a self-taught artist, studying old masters and observing nature. He was one of the co-founders of the Hagengesellschaft, and in 1900 he joined the Hagenbund, which emerged from it. In 1911 he became a member of the Künstlerhaus, which held a major exhibition of his works in 1919.

He shared with his friend and contemporary Gustav Klimt his love for Lake Attersee in Upper Austria, and he usually spent his vacation in Nußdorf am Attersee. In 1938 he appeared in the Künstlerhaus before the public for the last time, then retired in Nußdorf am Attersee; in 1942 he settled in the Villa Ransonnet and died there on January 17, 1949.

Hampel’s painting style represents a bridge between symbolism and Art Nouveau. He rarely composed oil paintings, and his special watercolour tempera technique was widely recognised. He showed a high technical ability, for instance in his flickering “gold bronze drawings”, and a delicate sense of colour, as can be seen in his famous work The dreamer.

The above painting was auctioned at Christie’s. I show here three other of his works, downloaded from artnet. The first is a pencil drawing with watercolour; the last two are oil paintings.

Sigmund Walter Hampel – A young shepherdess

Sigmund Walter Hampel – A girl reading (1913)

Sigmund Walter Hampel – Jeune fille au papillon (young girl with butterfly) (1922)

More information about this artist is available in German on AtterWiki.

Backlash from a Starving Spirit

Now that I have returned from my trip to the UK, it is time to get back to work. In the next month, I intend to share many details regarding my visits and what that means for the future of Pigtails in Paint. As an appetizer, I begin with this short post: a painting by Graham Ovenden. Ovenden has always had an impish love of satire recently enhanced by his experiences in prison. His stories, poems and paintings are peppered with such references. Unlike some artists who may have gone over the line in their enthusiasm for capturing the spirit of the young girl, Ovenden is truly a victim of unfortunate circumstances making him a needless object of persecution. Although he is now a free man, he understands the need to fight injustice and is determined to have his criminal record expunged. It is a much overdue warning to authorities about the hazards of overzealous prosecution and the media’s lazy and thoughtless propagation of unfounded rumors. The painting below targets the media.

Graham Ovenden – The Media Play Thing (2000)

The girl is holding an amulet bearing the insignia of two of the offending media outlets: The Sun and The Daily Mail. The symbolism of the white feather is taken from the 1955 film White Feather about intrigue during a treaty negotiation between Native Americans and U.S. soldiers. In the course of the story, one of the natives throws down a knife with a white feather attached signifying the declaration of hostilities. It was also meant to imply that the soldiers have conducted themselves with cowardice. Ovenden is making a similar accusation and if he were making this painting today, the amulet would certainly have included a few more charms. Although the offending media have been formally notified of a pending lawsuit, so far none have responded or attempted to remedy their journalistic sloth. In an age where the police, prosecutors, judges and now the media increasingly work together, there is little chance of justice for those falsely accused. This sort of corruption needs to be mitigated and measures taken to keep these respective institutions’ activities separate to prevent unjust conflicts of interest. Since healthy little girls often do have very thin features, it may not be clear to the viewer that the girl pictured here is emaciated by her interaction with the media. And thus, her life-giving spirit has been and is being starved.

This nature of the media is illustrated beautifully in a BBC political comedy from the 1980s called Yes, Prime Minister. Its rather cynical but astute observations about the operations of government is quite revealing and demonstrates the producers’ expertise. This excerpt comes from ‘A Conflict of Interest’ which first aired in 1986:

Cabinet Secretary Abbleby: … the only way to understand the press is to remember that they pander to their readers’ prejudices.
Prime Minister Hacker: Don’t tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers.
The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country.
The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country.
The Times is read by people who actually do run the country.
The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country.
Financial Times is read by people who own the country.
The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country.
And The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
Appleby: And Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
Bernard (Private Secretary to the PM): Sun readers don’t care who runs the country as long as she’s got big tits!