|Gustave Caillebotte's Man at His Bath (1884)|
I suppose the purchase will be controversial (the Monet that's being sold is a nice one, although the MFA has another much like it) - partly, I think, because the Caillebotte is still a slightly shocking image: a rudely vigorous male plunked down into what's structured as a Degas-style reverie. Actually, I'll go a little further - the image is shocking because it's so gay. It presents male nakedness as a precise equivalent to the softcore tease at the heart of a zillion French domestic scenes (and so slyly destabilizes the hetero-centrist context of a good chunk of Impressionism). The guy is practically rough trade, his butt is center stage, and Caillebotte even teases us with the silhouette of his scrotum. It's all gayer than Cher's mascara, but at the same time it's as masculine as a Bruins game - a combination that, frankly, the straight population struggles with much more than it does with queeny types like Michele Bachmann's husband.
So, as I'm sure you have guessed, I think it's pretty cool that the MFA is purchasing it, and to my mind the price is justified (if such prices are ever justified, that is). The museum already has a half-dozen sun-splashed Monets, after all, but Man at His Bath is nearly unique in the Impressionist catalog, and it's of high sociological interest as well.
|Was he gay? Obviously.|