Le Chambre Bleue Susane Valadon Object

Object Study 1, The Bed

Each issue of LYRA contains an object study relating to its theme. Lust presented us with a plethora of possibilities – lingerie, high-heels, masks, sex toys and so on – but, in the end, we decided to go right to the beginning, the source and the base: the bed.

Neda Neynska writes

The bed is also lust. The universal erotic power of a woman reclining on a bed, naked flesh immortalised and perpetuated by artists. In Ways Of Seeing, John Berger sets out that “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” This is exceptionally true, Berger says, in the depiction of women in art – in no other form more so than the nude. And the nude is, in the majority of cases, sprawled across a bed.

Yet, this is not ever the case – beds can be sites of rebellion too

In Suzanne Valadon’s La Chambre Bleu, from 1923, we see a woman depicting another woman in bed. She is fully dressed, save for her bare feet. And instead of a mirror to imply vanity, a cherub, to communicate innocence, or legs spread to suggest availability, she is languidly smoking a cigarette, with a pile of books at her feet. A bed of one’s own.

It is not only female empowerment that the bed carries, but empowerment of the sick too. Think of Matisse’s long brush, fashioned so that he could paint while supine, or the dying Orwell writing 1984. Beds help the depressed to: they offer safety, and allow an element of calm to enter a tortured mind because, if nothing else, they are soft – on her darkest days, for instance, the only place my partner feels she exists is the bed, where – in a funny contradiction – she can disappear. And finally, they are a refuge from fear, stress, exhaustion or just plain drudgery. For what, as Keats asked, is sweeter than sleep.

– Jago Rackham

Read Neda’s article in issue 1: subscribe and support our Kickstarter here.

Image: Detail from Le Chambre Bleue by Suzanne Valadon