Body of Art. . . .

Inspired by the Women’s Art Movement, which

sought to highlight and counteract stereotypical

representations of women in art, Sleigh (1916–

  1. painted a series of works that reversed accepted

traditions by featuring nude men in poses

that were more commonly associated with female

models.The Turkish Bath is a gender-reversed

version of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s

Le Bain Turc (1862). Instead of almost identical

and voluptuous harem nudes, Sleigh depicted

a group of naked men, each with different body

shapes, hair, ages and ethnicities. These variances

ensured that in sharp contrast to Ingres, no one

body type was fetishized. Indeed, all Sleigh’s

characters were recognizable as friends and

colleagues in the New York art world of the time.

The artist was concerned that turning male nudes

into art subjects should not simply duplicate the

kind of objectification that women experienced

throughout art history. She spoke of ‘portraying

both sexes with dignity and humanism’ and chose

their poses carefully to avoid humiliation or overt

sexual invitation. Indeed, in contrast to Ingres’s

reclining, day-dreaming bathers, Sleigh’s models

are alert and look directly at the viewer, challenging

us to look at them.