In the age of the 24/7 work week, the idea of a lazy Sunday can seem as quaint and outdated as an invitation to a ball, handwritten and delivered by carrier pigeon. But unlike corsets and dowries, this is one tradition worth bringing back. What if, instead of dragging yourself across the city to a brunch with people you don’t even like that much, then catching up on emails, meal prepping your quinoa salads and finally plopping down to Netflix and cry your Sunday angst away, you actually took a day to—gasp!—relax, unplug and unwind?
Before you roll your eyes, close out of this tab and open Microsoft Outlook (or Reddit, or the New York Stock Exchange, or whatever else you psychos like to browse to drown out the noise of your joyless existence), hear me out. If you don’t want to be hospitalized for burnout at age 35, you gotta hit pause on hustle mode every so often. And sorry, but downing 7 tequila shots and blacking out three times a week does not count as “unwinding”.
As much as the art world likes to glamorize the work hard, play hard and booze even harder lifestyle, we’re human just like everyone else. Despite all the evidence, gallerinas are people too, which means having needs, which include downtime.
If you’re feeling a little lost right now because you haven’t relaxed since 2005, don’t worry. We’ve put together a cheat sheet for you. Inspired by Vogue Paris’ “Le dimanche de” series, we’re bringing you a step-by-step guide to having the lazy Sunday of your dreams. Except, naturally, ours comes with a twist. Instead of prodding models and actresses to spill their Sunday secrets, we mined the art history vaults to bring you the best examples of Sunday laziness.
To this day, no one does a lazy Sunday like the French. Why? It might be the legacy of the Rococo—five Republics later, the spirit of “let them eat cake” lives on in the frilly paintings of the likes of Fragonard, Boucher and Watteau. When it comes to Sunday laziness, The Embarkation for Cythera has all its bases covered. Slinky silks? Check. Gorgeous natural backdrop? Check. A gang of all your best friends and lovers? Done and done.
A century and a half and some three revolutions after Watteau, leisure was still going strong in France. Although this painting by Manet places us firmly within modernist territory, a spirit of whimsy still permeates the picture. Next Sunday, make like Manet and pack a picnic to take to your local park with a couple of your buddies. Tip: for full Frenchiness, really dank bread is a must.
Of course, to really honor Manet, said dank bread must be eaten in the nude. Not big on public nudity? No problem. Don a naked dress—or a naked body suit—for similar effect. Or, throw open the windows, fill your living room with plants and recreate the scene within the comfort and privacy of your own home (suit-wearing men optional). Some say that food tastes better naked. Crazy? You won’t know until you try.
If eating naked isn’t your thing, maybe dancing naked is. To feel fully free, there’s nothing like moving your body without the pesky constraints of clothes. It could be a skinny dip in your pool or local nudie beach; it could be a naked fitness class, if you’re really brave; if you’re not, it could just be a nude boogie around your bedroom.
A day off is reason enough to celebrate life. It’s a day to take a step back from your everyday stressors and remind yourself what life’s actually about. A day to embrace frivolity and joy—remember joy? That thing you sometimes experienced before the gallery started eating up 99.9% of your life? Yeah, me neither. But if you knew that stripping and jumping around your house to Shakira could get you there, wouldn’t you want to try it?
You may not be a prince, but you can still jam out like one. In this painting from the Maharashtra state of India, a prince “sprinkles himself with perfumed water while being fanned by an attendant and entertained by musicians.” Not a bad way to spend a day off from princely duties.
In case you can’t convince all your musician friends to come over and entertain you while you fan and sprinkle yourself with perfumed water, we have some other ideas. With all the streaming platforms available, there’s no excuse not to have a killer “gallerina’s day off” playlist. Put on some perfectly curated jams while you’re cooking, doing laundry or cleaning the apartment and the experience immediately goes from dull to groovy.
For you serious audiophiles, you can even bust out the record player. And if you’re really trying to get funky, use your day off to catch a rock show, a symphony, a jam sesh, a drum circle, kirtan… whatever’s your vibe.
If you thought this was an ancient Chinese scroll, guess again. Chinese artist Chao Shao-An painted this work on a trip to California in the ‘60s. Just goes to show that you don’t need to travel to remote parts of Tibet to enjoy a little communion with nature.
On your next lazy Sunday, make like Chao and take a solo excursion to your nearest cove, meadow, island, fjord, whatever. Take a journal, a sketchbook, a camera, your bird-watching binoculars, your surfboard, or just yourself. City parks are nice and all, but there’s nothing like immersion in remote, rugged nature to help you gain some mental distance from the stress of the job.
Since we don’t condone anything illegal here, you definitely, definitely should not drop acid on you next day off. Or do shrooms. But, if you happen to get your hands on some peyote, ayahuasca, mescaline… who are we to stop you? Live your life. Best case, you’ll come back with a fresh perspective on life, identity, the universe, all that big picture stuff, so your everyday grind won’t seem like such a struggle.
Remember to enjoy any and all psychedelic substances responsibly, and preferably far away from screaming children, honking taxis or your email inbox. Nothing like a hysterical email from an artist asking you to update their bio right now to give you a bad trip.
Speaking of life-changers, here’s something less risky and more legal that still has the power to change the texture of your everyday existence. A lazy Sunday with absolutely nothing on the agenda is the perfect day to finally download that meditation app your yoga teacher friend has been bugging you about.
Before you hit me with the “But I have no time…”, let me stop you right there. I know for a fact that all of you have five or ten minutes in your day that you spend scrolling through IG. Use those minutes to close your eyes and follow your breath and, if you stick with it, you’ll start feeling the benefits all day, every day. Keep at it long enough, and all your days will start to feel like a lazy Sunday. Isn’t that the dream?
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Madame Chocquet Reading (1876)
Katsushika Hokusai, Geisha reading a book (1820s-1830s)
Balthus, Katia reading (1974)
There’s no shortage of women reading in the art history canon. Renoir alone made more than 30 paintings of them. If you really want to get into it, there’s a whole genre of criticism that you can dive into. But for our lazy Sunday purposes, we went with these four paintings. Indoors or out, curled up in your favorite kimono, dressing gown, or a simple skirt and tank top, losing yourself in a great book is the perfect way to spend a day off.
While these pictures come from all different cultures, time periods and artistic styles, they have one thing in common: they show that feeling of being totally engrossed in the story. Your phone could ring unto infinity, a neighbor could knock on the door until their knuckles bleed, your cat could meow for attention until it’s horse, but nothing is tearing you away from the page.
Sunday is holy day reserved for the sacraments: bagels, avocado toast, matcha lattes and chia seed pancakes. I’m talking about brunch, of course. It might not be the most imaginative way to spend a Sunday, but contrary what the art hoe bible preaches, just because something’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s bad. And brunch is one of those modern Sunday rituals that has become a classic for a good reason: it’s incredible.
If you’re hell-bent on keeping it bohemian, invite your friends over for an at-home spread inspired by a sumptuous Clara Peeters still life. And if nuts, candy and flowers don’t tickle your fancy, maybe crab, shrimp and lobsters, or cheese, almonds and pretzels, will.
Images via WikiArt, Asian Art Museum, Francesco Clemente