Bouguereau's 'Nymphs and satyr' : a new interpretation
Anderson, Erin Walsh
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William-Adolphe Bouguereau's sensual painting 'Nymphs and Satyr' (1873) has long stood as a sign of bourgeois frivolity, and an anti-avant garde work often dismissed by artists and critics alike. The subject matter is often incorrectly labeled as being in ideological conflict with Modern works of the period, which were steeped in honest visual representations of daily life. Recent scholars have interpreted the nude female figures in this painting as evidence of nineteenth century female economical and sexual emancipation. No painting can escape polyvalency throughout its lifetime, and therefore will encounter multiple interpretations within the changing cultures it inhabits. This thesis uses theoretical paradigms introduced by psychoanalysis and feminist art historians to seek the truth in the plurality of meanings assigned by cultural determinants. Viewers, regardless of period, are inescapably bound by their own experiences and thus, no singular construction holds universal meaning.