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There are two primary actors in life drawing: artist and model. Yet art historians and critics often treat the resulting works as the product of the artist alone, thereby foreclosing the creativity, labor, and perspective of the model. This panel, featuring four practicing life models, centers models as workers and artists in their own right. How can interrogating life drawing from the perspective of models challenge partial narratives and open more collaborative understandings of this practice?

Moderator:
Zoë Dostal, Kress Fellow, The Courtauld

Panelists: 

Kat Chimonides, Writer and Artist, “The Model Memoir”

Fleur Blüm, Life Model and Community Servant, and Asako Saito, Life Model and Public Servant, “Model as Worker: Raising the Model Status with the Life Models’ Society”

Dominic Blake, Art Writer, “Are Life Models Artists? An art historical analysis from the Renaissance to the present day”

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Speaker Bios and Abstracts:

“The Model Memoir”
Kat Chimonides, Writer and Artist

Abstract:
It’s about the minute hand on the clock, and what’s happening outside if I can see through a window. A pigeon flies past and the light crawls across rooftops. Swans drift out the way of oncoming canoes. The tutor circles the class, and air vibrates as chair legs scrape along the floor. Pencils and rubbers are dropped. Charcoal breaks between forefingers and thumbs, its remnants crushed underfoot.

These words reflect on my experience as an artist’s model. In this paper I will discuss memoirs written by models, highlighting what the model observes while being observed, where their attention focuses, their model’s gaze. Some memoirs span years, discussing numerous classes and artists the model worked with. Examples include those by Helene Simkin Jara and Kathleen Rooney. Other memoirs focus on time spent with one artist: Celia Paul, Nicola Rose O’Hara and Martin Gayford each write about posing for Lucian Freud. Originally published in French in 1919, Alice Michel’s Degas and His Model was brought to a new audience in 2017 by David Zwirner Books, with an English translation by Jeff Nagy. All of these texts give key insight to the act of modelling, and illustrate the importance of collaboration between model and artist. Harnessing my experience as an artist’s model, I am reading these works through the model’s gaze, and finding ways that artists and educators can learn from them.

Biography:
Kat Chimonides is a writer and artist from Norwich. Her practice explores life drawing, the life model in literature, and the nude in visual art. With seven years’ experience as an artist’s model, Kat approaches her research through the model’s gaze.

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“Model as Worker: Raising the Model Status with the Life Models’ Society”
Fleur Blüm, Life Model and Community Servant, and Asako Saito, Life Model and Public Servant

 Abstract:
Models play an integral and enabling role in the life drawing community. Indeed, life drawing as an activity necessitates the presence of Models at its center. Despite this, the Model’s contribution to the art world is often undervalued, rendering their labor invisible and underappreciated. Such sentiments can lead to unsafe and harmful work practices, further intensifying the precarious and vulnerable nature of modelling work. This paper positions the Model as Worker. It argues that modelling is legitimate work deserving appropriate recognition, remuneration and rights to occupational health and safety. The paper draws on the history and practices of the Life Models’ Society of Victoria, Australia, to illustrate benefits to the professionalization of life modelling work. It highlights the importance of life drawing communities adopting working conditions, setting minimum pay rates and sharing information about dangers in this unique workplace. In so doing, the paper contributes to the promotion of welfare and dignity of all life models.

Biographies:
Fleur Blüm started as a life model in 2014 and joined the Life Models’ Society (LMS) Committee in 2015. She was President of the LMS from 2020-2023. Fleur has authored eight novels. Fleur has two bachelor’s degrees and has worked as a Quality Manager in the Community Services since 2011.

Asako Saito is the current LMS President. She has been a life drawing artist since 2006 and a life model since 2020. Asako has dabbled in several industries, including casinos, aviation and academia. She is now a public servant working in gambling harm prevention. Asako enjoys cats, coffee and alliteration.

_

“Are Life Models Artists? An art historical analysis from the Renaissance to the present day”
Dominic Blake, Art Writer

 Abstract:
The role of the life model is inextricably linked with the Western academic traditions of fine art associated with the emergence of the art academies during the Renaissance, popularized in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture in Paris and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The academies have become the filters via which the life model is interpreted and understood, shaping contemporary attitudes and giving rise to cultural paradigms suggesting that models are servants, or mercenary drawing instruments. By extension, models have been thought of as muses, providing the inspiration for artists to create their work via their emotional engagement. However, life modelling is a complex practice, models fulfilling myriad roles beyond those defined by these paradigms. Given the determining factors of motivation and context, modelling might itself become a physical mode of artistic practice within which the model uses their body as their medium to create works of art within the realm of performance art or contemporary dance. These self-choreographed or spontaneous artistic acts may occur either in creative symbiosis with other artists, or beyond the studio / life room environment in alternate contexts, including museum or gallery settings. Differing contexts may foster new perceptual frameworks of understanding on the part of the viewer; removed from previous paradigmatic shackles, the model’s artistry may be unambiguously revealed.

Biography:
Dominic Blake is a London based art writer and theorist whose work concerning the life model is located at the core of an emerging art historical debate. His ongoing lecture series “Are Life Models Artists?” has featured at the University of Cambridge, The National Gallery, V&A and other institutions. In 2021, Blake was co-organizer of a symposium at the University of Kent, “Revaluing the Life Model in Art Practice,” within which associated issues were discussed. A life model at the Royal Academy of Arts since 2014, he is currently completing a translation of his lecture series into a monograph with generous support from the Charleston Trust (2026).

__

Moderator Bio:

Zoë Dostal (PhD, Columbia) is the 2022–2024 Kress Institutional Fellow at The Courtauld Institute of Art and will be the 2024–2027 Visiting Assistant Professor of Early Modern European Art and Architecture at Amherst College. Her current book project investigates the material and ideological enmeshment of textile manufacturing, imperialism, and the visual arts in eighteenth-century Britain. Her work has been supported by fellowships at the Huntington Library, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, and the Yale Center for British Art.

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Symposium description:

From the sixteenth century to the present, drawing the human body from life has remained a mainstay of Western institutional art practice. Despite significant shifts in the aesthetics, media, and purpose of art over the last five hundred years, life drawing endures in both the studio and the classroom.

Please join us for two virtual panels that delve into the ethics and limits of life drawing: Life Drawing After Death and Life Model as Laborer and Artist. These panels initiate a discussion that will continue at an in-person symposium on Thursday, June 20 at The Courtauld Institute, Pose, Power, Practice: New Perspectives on Life Drawing.

Organized by Zoë Dostal (Kress Fellow, The Courtauld) and Isabel Bird (PhD candidate, Harvard University).

 

 

Image: Logo of the Life Models’ Society of Victoria, Australia. Courtesy of the Life Models’ Society.

Events, Upcoming
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Life Model as Laborer and Artist – Virtual Panel

There are two primary actors in life drawing: artist and model. Yet art historians and critics often treat the resulting works as the product of the artist alone, thereby foreclosing the creativity, labor, and perspective of the model. This panel, featuring four practicing life models, centers models as workers and artists in their own right. How can interrogating life drawing from the perspective of models challenge partial narratives and open more collaborative understandings of this practice?

Moderator:
Zoë Dostal, Kress Fellow, The Courtauld

Panelists: 

Kat Chimonides, Writer and Artist, “The Model Memoir”

Fleur Blüm, Life Model and Community Servant, and Asako Saito, Life Model and Public Servant, “Model as Worker: Raising the Model Status with the Life Models’ Society”

Dominic Blake, Art Writer, “Are Life Models Artists? An art historical analysis from the Renaissance to the present day”

__

Speaker Bios and Abstracts:

“The Model Memoir”
Kat Chimonides, Writer and Artist

Abstract:
It’s about the minute hand on the clock, and what’s happening outside if I can see through a window. A pigeon flies past and the light crawls across rooftops. Swans drift out the way of oncoming canoes. The tutor circles the class, and air vibrates as chair legs scrape along the floor. Pencils and rubbers are dropped. Charcoal breaks between forefingers and thumbs, its remnants crushed underfoot.

These words reflect on my experience as an artist’s model. In this paper I will discuss memoirs written by models, highlighting what the model observes while being observed, where their attention focuses, their model’s gaze. Some memoirs span years, discussing numerous classes and artists the model worked with. Examples include those by Helene Simkin Jara and Kathleen Rooney. Other memoirs focus on time spent with one artist: Celia Paul, Nicola Rose O’Hara and Martin Gayford each write about posing for Lucian Freud. Originally published in French in 1919, Alice Michel’s Degas and His Model was brought to a new audience in 2017 by David Zwirner Books, with an English translation by Jeff Nagy. All of these texts give key insight to the act of modelling, and illustrate the importance of collaboration between model and artist. Harnessing my experience as an artist’s model, I am reading these works through the model’s gaze, and finding ways that artists and educators can learn from them.

Biography:
Kat Chimonides is a writer and artist from Norwich. Her practice explores life drawing, the life model in literature, and the nude in visual art. With seven years’ experience as an artist’s model, Kat approaches her research through the model’s gaze.

_

“Model as Worker: Raising the Model Status with the Life Models’ Society”
Fleur Blüm, Life Model and Community Servant, and Asako Saito, Life Model and Public Servant

 Abstract:
Models play an integral and enabling role in the life drawing community. Indeed, life drawing as an activity necessitates the presence of Models at its center. Despite this, the Model’s contribution to the art world is often undervalued, rendering their labor invisible and underappreciated. Such sentiments can lead to unsafe and harmful work practices, further intensifying the precarious and vulnerable nature of modelling work. This paper positions the Model as Worker. It argues that modelling is legitimate work deserving appropriate recognition, remuneration and rights to occupational health and safety. The paper draws on the history and practices of the Life Models’ Society of Victoria, Australia, to illustrate benefits to the professionalization of life modelling work. It highlights the importance of life drawing communities adopting working conditions, setting minimum pay rates and sharing information about dangers in this unique workplace. In so doing, the paper contributes to the promotion of welfare and dignity of all life models.

Biographies:
Fleur Blüm started as a life model in 2014 and joined the Life Models’ Society (LMS) Committee in 2015. She was President of the LMS from 2020-2023. Fleur has authored eight novels. Fleur has two bachelor’s degrees and has worked as a Quality Manager in the Community Services since 2011.

Asako Saito is the current LMS President. She has been a life drawing artist since 2006 and a life model since 2020. Asako has dabbled in several industries, including casinos, aviation and academia. She is now a public servant working in gambling harm prevention. Asako enjoys cats, coffee and alliteration.

_

“Are Life Models Artists? An art historical analysis from the Renaissance to the present day”
Dominic Blake, Art Writer

 Abstract:
The role of the life model is inextricably linked with the Western academic traditions of fine art associated with the emergence of the art academies during the Renaissance, popularized in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture in Paris and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The academies have become the filters via which the life model is interpreted and understood, shaping contemporary attitudes and giving rise to cultural paradigms suggesting that models are servants, or mercenary drawing instruments. By extension, models have been thought of as muses, providing the inspiration for artists to create their work via their emotional engagement. However, life modelling is a complex practice, models fulfilling myriad roles beyond those defined by these paradigms. Given the determining factors of motivation and context, modelling might itself become a physical mode of artistic practice within which the model uses their body as their medium to create works of art within the realm of performance art or contemporary dance. These self-choreographed or spontaneous artistic acts may occur either in creative symbiosis with other artists, or beyond the studio / life room environment in alternate contexts, including museum or gallery settings. Differing contexts may foster new perceptual frameworks of understanding on the part of the viewer; removed from previous paradigmatic shackles, the model’s artistry may be unambiguously revealed.

Biography:
Dominic Blake is a London based art writer and theorist whose work concerning the life model is located at the core of an emerging art historical debate. His ongoing lecture series “Are Life Models Artists?” has featured at the University of Cambridge, The National Gallery, V&A and other institutions. In 2021, Blake was co-organizer of a symposium at the University of Kent, “Revaluing the Life Model in Art Practice,” within which associated issues were discussed. A life model at the Royal Academy of Arts since 2014, he is currently completing a translation of his lecture series into a monograph with generous support from the Charleston Trust (2026).

__

Moderator Bio:

Zoë Dostal (PhD, Columbia) is the 2022–2024 Kress Institutional Fellow at The Courtauld Institute of Art and will be the 2024–2027 Visiting Assistant Professor of Early Modern European Art and Architecture at Amherst College. Her current book project investigates the material and ideological enmeshment of textile manufacturing, imperialism, and the visual arts in eighteenth-century Britain. Her work has been supported by fellowships at the Huntington Library, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, and the Yale Center for British Art.

__

Symposium description:

From the sixteenth century to the present, drawing the human body from life has remained a mainstay of Western institutional art practice. Despite significant shifts in the aesthetics, media, and purpose of art over the last five hundred years, life drawing endures in both the studio and the classroom.

Please join us for two virtual panels that delve into the ethics and limits of life drawing: Life Drawing After Death and Life Model as Laborer and Artist. These panels initiate a discussion that will continue at an in-person symposium on Thursday, June 20 at The Courtauld Institute, Pose, Power, Practice: New Perspectives on Life Drawing.

Organized by Zoë Dostal (Kress Fellow, The Courtauld) and Isabel Bird (PhD candidate, Harvard University).

 

 

Image: Logo of the Life Models’ Society of Victoria, Australia. Courtesy of the Life Models’ Society.

Date
June 18, 2024 8:00 am
Venue

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Life Model as Laborer and Artist – Virtual Panel
June 18, 2024 8:00 am
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Life Drawing After Death – Virtual Panel
June 17, 2024 11:00 am
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Pose, Power, Practice: New Perspectives on Life Drawing
June 20, 2024 9:00 am
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April 7, 2024 10:00 am

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