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 Adolphe-William Bouguereau, one of the few Victorian artists to get rich from his work within his lifetime, practically specialized in them.

Adolphe-William Bouguereau – Love Disarmed (1885)

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

Adolphe-William 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.

Adolphe-William 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.

Picasso and the CIA

Pablo Picasso Maia's Face 1938

Pablo Picasso – Maia’s Face (1938)

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) needs little introduction since he is probably the most famous artist of the 20th Century. His portraits from his Blue and Rose period reflect a sensitivity for his subjects which was lost when he turned to Cubism. However, occasionally he did some beautiful work after his Cubist phase which reflect a love for the subject, his portrait of his daughter Maia is proof for any Philistines that he could draw in a traditional manner.

Pablo Picasso Guernica 1937

Pablo Picasso Guernica 1937

On the April 26, 1937 the town of Guernica was totally destroyed fom a bombing by the German air force. The town was of no military importance; its destruction was an act of pure terrorism. Picasso responded by painting a surreal cartoonish scene that has the effect of a collage made of old newspapers due to the hard edge forms and the palette of dark browns and white. Guernica is considered a masterpiece of modern art.

Picasso Massacre in Korea 1951

Picasso Massacre in Korea 1951

Picasso painted another painting like Guernica in 1951; this time he drew inspiration from the composition of Francisco de Goya’s The Third of May 1808. I consider the Massacre in Korea to be a much better painting than Guernica since I can empathize with some of the figures. An adolescent girl stands frozen near the center of the painting and she looks to the viewer with expression of grief. To her right, a baby plays near her feet, unaware of the violence. Two younger children run to a group of four terrified women; all the women and children are naked to symbolize defenselessness. To the right of the painting stands a firing squad, as in Goya’s painting. The posture of the soldiers seem to be mechanical—they are a group of executing robots. The painting was not well received since the “robots” represented the United States military.

The New York art community regarded Picasso’s “new Guernica” to be an “aesthetic failure”. Clement Greenberg, who was the most influential art critic of the time claimed that modern art was apolitical and was only an aesthetic pursuit, but some thought otherwise. On August 16, 1949, Congressman Dondero from Michigan gave a condemning speech “Modern art shackled to Communism”. Picasso had a reputation as a genius but his Massacre in Korea didn’t help the position of Nelson Rockefeller and his associates, who were promoting Modernism. A letter was drafted to Picasso in December 1952 by the recently formed Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). The letter condemned Picasso for supporting communism. The letter was never sent but Irving Kristol who was the executive director of the CCF, was confident that he could count on Greenberg’s signature and probably the signatures of Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Alexander Clader.

Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell paintings modern wing Piladelphia Museum

Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell –  Paintings in the modern wing of the Philadelphia Museum

In 1967, the magazine Ramparts exposed the CCF to be a CIA-funded organization. The CIA’s promotion of abstract expressionism was so extensive in the 1950’s, an unknown artist couldn’t find representation in New York unless he was painting in a style derived from the New York School. The CIA claimed that the purpose of the program was to improve the United States’ image to liberals who may support communism. The Congress was run by CIA agent Micheal Josselson from 1950 to 1967. At its peak, it had offices in thirty-five countries, published over twenty prestigious magazines, held art exhibitions and rewarded artists with prizes. The realist painter Ben Shahn refused to join and referred to the Congress as the ‘ACCFuck’.

Mark Rothko room, Tate Modern

Mark Rothko Room, Tate Modern

Pablo Picasso Girl with Basket of Flowers 1905

Pablo Picasso Girl with Basket of Flowers 1905

Frances Stonor Saunders’ book Who Paid the Piper? provided much of the information for this article; she writes: “Operating at a remove from the CIA, and therefore offering a plausible disguise for its interests, was the Museum of Modern Art. An inspection of MoMA’s committees and councils reveals a proliferation of links to the Agency.” The program manufactured history and abstract expressionism was promoted as New American painting when in fact most Americans then and now have difficulty accepting the paintings as art. The purpose of the program had nothing to do with freedom—the effect was more like censorship. If respectable art is limited to drips of paint or a field of color, it makes it impossible for an artist to represent anything that could conflict with the ideology of the social system. This is what I found in the account of the response to Massacre in Korea; it was called an “aesthetic failure” for actually being expressive. I regard Korea to be one of Picasso’s best paintings since his Rose Period. I find paintings like Guernica to be ineffective due to the abstractification, the aesthetic distance. I agree with Tolstoy, the essence of art is expression, not just an arrangement of form. The forms in Guernica are cold symbols that fail to evoke empathy.

Wikipedia noted that none of the soldiers in Massacre in Korea have penises. This feature is contrasted by the pregnant state of the women on the left side of the panel. “Many viewers have interpreted that the soldiers, in their capacity as destroyers of life, have substituted guns for their penises, thereby castrating themselves and depriving the world of the next generation of human life”. An expressive image of Americanization indeed.

Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup Cans 1962

Andy Warhol – Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962)

Miles Mathis believes as well as I do, that the CIA allowed for Saunders’ book to surface to distract from the fact that the government is still in control of the ideology of the art establishment. For example, the book makes no reference to Andy Warhol despite the fact that Warhol was being promoted during the time that the CIA’s program was admittedly active. The values of Pop: mass production and consumerism were in complete conflict with the values of the genuine liberals of the 1960s and 1970s. This is why Jock Sturges was persecuted by the FBI; his photographs reflect a connection between people which were in conflict with the emerging post-humanism. The underlining goal of the plutocracy is to maintain a dysfunctional culture since a disconnected society is easier to control.

The artist Miles Mathis examined Frances Stonor Saunders’ book, the PDF can be found here: The Cultural Cold War.

The Independent’s article can be found here: Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’

Pablo Picasso Le Gourmet 1901

Pablo Picasso – Le Gourmet (1901)

Picasso Girl with Dog 1905

Pablo Picasso – Girl with Dog (1905)

Pablo Picasso Maia-with her Doll 1938

Pablo Picasso – Maia with her Doll (1938)