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Joan Semmel

Erotic Series


Hold, 1972, Oil on canvas

Hold, 1972

Oil on canvas

72h x 108w in (182.88h x 274.32w cm)

Blue Back, 1973, Oil on canvas

Blue Back, 1973

Oil on canvas

22.75h x 20w in (57.79h x 50.80w cm)

Erotic Yellow, 1973, Oil on canvas

Erotic Yellow, 1973

Oil on canvas

72h x 72w in (182.88h x 182.88w cm)

Indian Erotic, 1973, Oil on canvas

Indian Erotic, 1973

Oil on canvas

54h x 72w in (137.16h x 182.88w cm)

Collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, PA

Purple Passion, 1973, Oil on canvas

Purple Passion, 1973

Oil on canvas

48h x 80w in (121.92h x 203.20w cm)

Like Joan Semmel’s series of Sex Paintings (1971), the Erotic Series (1972) portrays intimate encounters that emphasize a female-informed approach to sexuality. However, the series marks an evolution in Semmel’s practice. To create these expansive compositions, Semmel used photographs instead of sketches—an approach she continues to use in her paintings today. As Semmel writes, “The shift from drawing into photography was a significant departure for me. At the time, the use of photography by a painter was considered not quite legitimate. I appropriated the modeled form and smooth surface of the closely cropped photograph into my paintings which tended tp push the image out from the picture plane into the viewer’s space, and retained abstract color as a primary element in the work.” For Semmel, using expressive hues to describe her forms was a means of distinguishing her images from pornography.