What is this line across the model's buttocks?
It is the back of a small garment that the male model is wearing for privacy -- like a G-string, or an athletic support strap.
It looks like there is a tear right above the buttock in the painting by John Koch.
Yes! Good observation. That is not a tear, it represents a delicate "support" for the model's genitals.
That painting has a lot of information and humor I could share with you if you have any other inquiries about it.
Koch was also a sculptor. In fact, that sculpture in the background was one of his own works. It shows Prometheus, a character in ancient Greek myth. Prometheus was punished by Zeus, king of the gods, for stealing fire and giving it to humans. This sculpture shows Prometheus chained to a rock and being tormented by a bird of prey. He is being freed by the god Hercules.
There's some humorous interplay between the painting's figures and the sculpture in the back. As you can see the theme of fire plays out in different ways, with the model giving fire to the painter (Koch) to light his cigarette. If you look closely, you can even see the flame flickering in his glasses.
I personally think that the sculpture has a another humorous nod. The calipers he's holding are a sculptor's tool, used to make measurements from live models. Considering the direct view of the subject in the chair at the moment...well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions! ;)
A little more info about the model: the man who posed for the nude figure was named Ernest Ulmer. He was a student of Dora, Koch's wife, who taught piano.
What is the subject of the sculpture in the background? Is it Prometheus?
You got it! Exactly right. Interestingly, that large sculpture in the background is a reference to this painter's attempts at being a sculptor. He made a bronze miniature version of that very sculpture that he kept in his house and it shows up in the background of several of his other paintings in its real, miniature size. There's some playfulness here in the Prometheus reference, in the fact that the male model in this painting is giving fire to the painter for his cigarette like Prometheus gave fire to mankind.
What is the subject of the sculpture in the background?
The sculpture in the background of the studio shows Prometheus, a mythical individual who stole fire from the gods to bring it to humans. There's a humorous visual pun between that idea and the scene in the front with the model handing a light to the sculptor for his cigarette.
What is the subject of the sculpture in the background?
The subject of the sculpture in the back is Prometheus. According to Greek legend, Prometheus defied Zeus and stole fire from Mt. Olympus to give to humankind. The punishment for his disobedience was that he was chained to a rock where a bird of prey tore at his liver every day. Since Prometheus was a Titan and immortal, every night his liver would grow back and he suffered for thousands of years. Finally, after revealing a secret to Zeus in exchange for his freedom, Prometheus was freed when Hercules, sent by Zeus, killed the bird.
"Prometheus" was actually the original title of this painting, but it was renamed "The Sculptor" by the artist since it also features a self-portrait of the artist surrounded by the tools of the sculptor's craft (Koch was a sculptor as well as a painter).
Was the artist gay? Did he receive backlash for its creation if he showed it in the 60s? Are they lovers in the picture?
Interesting questions, and yes, I can see how you would read that into the painting. "The Sculptor" is actually by an artist who did not identify as gay (he was married for many years to a woman)...but there is an ambiguity here because this is a quasi-self portrait (the artist is painting himself as a sculptor) and the model in the painting was a friend of Koch and his wife (he was a piano student of Koch's wife).
Also my dad thought there might be a joke with the artist holding the measuring tool, perhaps measuring the model's penis.
Yes, many people notice that. The painting is very playful and referential. There is also a play between the sculpture in the background and the lighting of the cigarette. The sculpture in the background is Prometheus and there's some humor here in the Prometheus reference, in the fact that the male model in this painting is giving fire to the painter for his cigarette like Prometheus gave fire to mankind in the Greek myth.
Interestingly, the painter didn't receive backlash during that time for the content, but rather for his almost photo-realistic style. (He painted this work during the rise in popularity of Modernism, abstraction, etc.)
What is the white line above his butt cheeks? It looks like he's wearing a thong.
In a way, you are right. Nude models would wear these thong-like garments to preserve a bit of modesty or privacy while modeling. This practice varied from artist to artist and model to model. Some did without!
What is the subject of the sculpture in the background of "The Sculptor"?
The subject of the sculpture in the back is of Prometheus. According to Greek legend, Prometheus defied Zeus and stole fire from Mt. Olympus to give to humankind. The punishment for his disobedience was that he was chained to a rock where daily a bird of prey—an eagle, vulture, or hawk—tore at his liver. Since Prometheus was a titan and immortal, each night his liver would grow back and he suffered for thousands of years. Finally, after revealing a secret to Zeus in exchange for his freedom, Prometheus was freed when Hercules, sent by Zeus, killed the tormenting bird.
Prometheus was actually the original title of this painting. But, the piece was renamed "The Sculptor" by the artist since it also features a self-portrait of the artist surrounded by evidence of the sculptor's craft (Koch was a sculptor as well as a painter).
This booty be poppin'! What does it mean tho?
Tell me 'bout that booty!
Let me tell you about that booty!
The artist's model was a former piano student of Koch's wife, Dora.
The innuendos of Koch's close friends, plus critical readings of many of his paintings, would seem to confirm Koch's sexual desire for men. His forty-three year marriage and obvious love for his wife Dora, however, diverted the "straight" world from guessing that such desires were even possible. Typical of closeted homosexuals of his generation, Koch revealed his sexuality only in coded references.
It's the best booty ;D
I'd like to know what the white horizontal line across the model's hip is.
Nude models will sometimes wear these small garments to have a bit of privacy or modesty while modeling. It is interesting here that Koch decided to depict it. Other artists might have eliminated it.
I see! So, it's like tanga shorts? Also, what is the theme of the sculpture behind the artist?
It's actually even smaller, more like a thong. And the subject of the sculpture is the myth of Prometheus. Do you know the story?
Yeah, the fire! I got it.
Excellent, yes! There are many layers to this painting and it was actually originally titled "Prometheus" before being changed to "The Sculptor."
It's very beautiful. Though the subject is contemporary, I like the addition of the myths. Now I feel like I totally understand this painting.
I am trying to figure out what the thing is the bald guy is holding, do you know?
He's holding an instrument called a caliper that sculptors use in order to make accurate proportions.
The bald man is actually John Koch, the artist who painted this work, so this is partially a self-portrait. Koch also made sculptures. The sculpture painted in the background here was one that he had made. It's a scene from Greek mythology, with Hercules and Prometheus.
Is there a meaning behind having the sculpture in the back?
The sculpture alludes to the story of Prometheus, who stole fire from Mt. Olympus to give to humans. This made Zeus very angry.
So the model = Prometheus and the artist = humans. Is there a specific reason why the sculpture captures the moment where Hercules is helping Prometheus? Or is it more up to interpretation of the viewer?
Yes exactly, there are many loops and inside references in this work. And that's a great question about choosing that moment, it's certainly a great opportunity for interpretation!
I also think there are possibly some homoerotic references happening in both the sculpture and the figures in the painting. I think the calipers themselves might have a cheeky, sexual overtone, considering the painter's point of view in this position. I'm also thinking about the masculine energy of Hercules coming to the aid of Prometheus. And it must have been a great challenge to Koch's skill to sculpt these two strong men in such an active moment.
Ah that makes sense, thank you! That was really helpful.
How come this one doesn't have a description?
That's a great question! While I can't speak for the American Art curatorial staff, I can tell you that a lot of thought goes into which objects get expanded labels and which do not and many factors can go into those decisions. Perhaps, because this is clearly a provocative image, the curators wanted to leave it a bit of a mystery? Perhaps they felt it did not need further explanation? I can only speculate!
Is there something you would like to know about it?
Woah, that's cool
Yeah, what's the background or context for the painting?
Definitely! The artist, John Koch, depicts himself with a male model, Ernst Ulmer, who was a piano student of Koch's wife. The sculpture in the background of the painting is another work by Koch that depicts Prometheus, character in ancient Greek myth. Prometheus was punished by Zeus, king of the gods, for stealing fire and giving it to humans. This sculpture shows Prometheus chained to a rock and being tormented by a bird of prey. He is being freed by the god Hercules. There's some humorous interplay between the painting's figures and the sculpture in the back. The theme of fire comes back with the model giving fire to the painter (Koch) to light his cigarette.
This work by John Koch is titled "The Sculptor." Koch himself is seen here as the seated sculptor with his model standing in front. The interaction between the artist and the model is quite ambiguous.
Koch was interested in working in a realist style during the 1960s and in this work we see a glimpse into the world of the Koch's private world as an artist. The sculpture in the background is one that Koch really created in 1964, for example.