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Art of Love at Buster Mantis, 25 June 2017

5 July 2017

Luisa of London Drawing Group told us this was a life drawing theme she had been wanting to present for a long time. It was a feeling that both Esther and I shared; we’d modelled as a duo for many sessions, yet ‘Art of Love’ would at last give us licence to pose truly as a couple. Luisa sent us images of ten great artworks that she would like us to interpret, so we practised before walking to Buster Mantis in Deptford.

Warming-up and Eternal Springtime

Our pose space was prepared: we had a sofa, stool, chair, and floor on which to work, whilst a sell-out group of a dozen artists occupied seats in a tight semi-circle. Behind us Luisa projected original artworks, but first – before we attempted any of those – we free-styled our own set of three 2-minute standing poses. Next, for 2-minutes we were in homage to the back-bending ‘Eternal Springtime’ by Auguste Rodin.


Eternal Springtime,
Auguste Rodin

Ecstasy and Hell

From here on, our pose times began getting longer, from 5-minutes up to half an hour. We next tackled the dubious Eric Gill, and a work which Tate Britain calls ‘Ecstasy’ but which Gill himself titled ‘Fucking’ – Esther and I embraced intimately but achieved neither state in the time available. Our third inspiration was a return to Rodin, albeit in detail only, taken from his mighty ‘Gates of Hell’ (bottom right corner).


Ecstasy,
Eric Gill


Gates of Hell (detail),
Auguste Rodin

Siren and Spirits

To approximate ‘The Fisherman and the Syren’ by Frederic Leighton, we reclined on the sofa. This was grand for me but somewhat taxing for Esther’s right arm, which had to reach around my neck. The next Rodin – ‘The Evil Spirits’ – is actually a threesome but, in Luisa’s image, it looked like a seated female figure with one male figure leaning from behind to kiss her neck; this was how we played it.


The Fisherman and the Syren,
Frederic Leighton


The Evil Spirits,
Auguste Rodin

Rodin and Claudel

Luisa provided an enthusiastic, engaging, well-paced art history commentary on each work. Her passion was never more warm than when detailing the profoundly complex, tumultuous relationship between Rodin and his lover, the sculptor Camille Claudel. I was on my knees as we replicated similar compositions by each: first kissing Esther, then nuzzling her neck.


The Eternal Idol,
Auguste Rodin


Vertumnus and Pomona,
Camille Claudel

The Kiss

Of course, we couldn’t get through a session themed on the Art of Love with so many sculptures by Rodin, and not provide our own interpretation of ‘The Kiss’. By this time we’d had a break with glasses of wine so were thoroughly at ease in our work. I doubt that I’ve ever kissed for so long before – albeit through a tender yet passive contact of closed lips. I loved how well so many of the artists captured what we tried to convey.


The Kiss,
Auguste Rodin

Being ourselves

With half an hour remaining of our 3-hour session, Luisa gave us the freedom to pose in any way we wanted, up to the 7pm finish. We selected a pose we’d tried just once before, at The Cambria, for which I sat on a chair and Esther sat on my legs, facing me. It’s a lovely pose and I was pleased to give the advantage to artists at either side of us, as for most of the session I felt we’d unavoidably favoured artists at the front.

It had been a wonderful session; comfortable and filled with tenderness. Luisa steered the group with professionalism, knowledge and sensitivity, while the artists responded with boldness, delicacy and style. It was nice too that Lily Holder had come along to draw, as we’d all modelled together the previous night. There had only been time for eight of Luisa’s ten artworks – maybe we can do Schiele and Klimt some other day.

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