Pierre Auguste Cot (1837 – 1883) was a talented French academic who is best known for his sensitive paintings of young couples. He studied under Leon Cogniet, Alexandre Cabanel and William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Cot enjoyed the patronage of the academic sculptor Francisque Duret, whose daughter he married, and of Bouguereau, with whom he had also worked. Bouguereau painted a portrait of Cot’s daughter, Gabrielle. Cot was renowned for several works, including Le Printemps, featuring two young lovers sitting upon a swing, and The Storm. Both these paintings are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Nearly twenty years ago, I came to know Cot’s work from an Art Seminars advertisement I found in an old Post magazine. Cot’s painting The Storm was compared with a painting by Oskar Kokoschka with the agenda of “cultivating” a person to tell if art is good or bad. Obviously, the intention of the authors was to condition a person to have the modern sensibilities which are indifferent to the expression of Cot’s work. Although there has been a renewed interest in Romantic art in recent times, the appreciation is usually superficial. The work tends to be viewed at a historical distance, not as a work which expresses essential values which have been impoverished in our time. The simple fact is, our Babelized civilization is doing away with what Francis Schaeffer called the “mannishness” of man.
Although most bloggers I encounter blame Christians for being hostile to sexuality in art, I find that history tells an other story. The 19th Century was last period in which culture was still rooted in a theocracy view, beautiful sensual art still had ground to be nurtured. With the industrial revolution, a technopoly conscious began to emerge which a one-sided emphasis on technology. As Erich Fromm said,”Having lost the religious faith and the humanistic values bound with it, he concentrated on technical and material values and lost the capacity for deep emotional experiences, for the joy and sadness that accompany them.” The Modernism which emerged in the early 20th century was an absurd form of materialist asceticism which denies the fullness of being human.