We often think about fashion used in paintings and sculpture, but do we ever take a moment to look at what the characters in our favourite masterpieces were wearing on their feet? From kitten heels to sandals, the guys and girls of artworks from the past to the present knew a thing or two about picking their footwear. Here are some of our favourites!
The Swing, Jean-Honore Fragonard, 1767
View this post on Instagram
? ? Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Swing, c.1767, ? @wallacemuseum The gentleman in the lower left is young and virile. He is in the prime of life and wants to experience the pleasures of his lady love. He is her suitor. He represents sex. Is it no coincidence that the suitor with carnal desires is lying amongst the flowers on the ground hidden from the husband? He takes the opportunity to look upwards at his lover, and to look inwards at her petticoat. You cannot see anything from the viewer’s perspective except the lady’s legs and stockings, but from the tilt of his head, the angle of her dress, and the smile on his face, the young lover is viewing more than what is respectable… More ? Dailyartmagazine.com (link in a bio) ✍ James W Singer #arthistory #wallacecollection #fragonard #rococo
This scene is pretty iconic. At first it looks ever so sweet, a young man gazing at his lover as she flies through the air on a swing. In reality, the story is much more saucy, his lady friend flicks a slipper off her foot as he looks up her skirt. So it seems the association with a good shoe and sex appeal is nothing new…
Beauty In An Autumn Field, Isoda Koryusai, 1735
Image via Wikimedia Commons
The beauty of Japanese woodblock prints have inspired artists across the world for generations. We just can’t get past this delicate little shoe worn in this image, as this kimono-clad beauty exposes a leg.
Shoes, Vincent Van Gogh, 1886
Ok, so these shoes are not exactly something we’d be dying to wear on a night out, or a night in for that matter, but they were painted by Van Gogh, so they automatically have iconic status. Apparently the artist bought this pair of footwear at a flea market and, only after walking through mud, decided that they were interesting enough to paint.
Shoe Illustrations, Andy Warhol, circa 1950s
Did you know Andy Warhol’s career began by illustrating shoes? In June 1949 he received his first commission from Glamour Magazine, and continued to work in fashion illustration for the next decade. And, much like the prints he is most famous for, he also produced his shoe prints in an assembly-line, paving the way for the rest of his mass-produced work.
Secretary, Allen Jones, 1971
Just look at these gorgeous pins! British artist Allen Jones is famous for his fetishisation of footwear. Known for having an erotic flair, he often uses mannequins to focus of the female form, and usually includes a high-heeled boot.
Performance Still, Mona Hatoum, 1985
This image is a well-known documentation of a performance made by Mona Hatoum in 1985 where she walked through London with a pair of Dr Martens boots attached to her ankles. At the time this style of shoes were worn by underground groups and police officers, but Mona gave them new meaning. The work comments on control and social conditioning, as the boots tied to her ankles mimic the act of being followed.
Bad Shoe, Alex Da Corte, 2017
Alex Da Corte’s giant foam sneaker is something for the millennial art lover. It was displayed in an exhibition called BAD LAND at Josh Lilley in London in 2018, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it was snapped up by a rapper for their mansion.
Full Stone Wavy Boot, Anthea Hamilton, 2019
These shoes by Anthea Hamilton were inspired by Cecil Vyse, the main character with extravagant style from E.M. Forster’s classic A Room With A View. The shoes may have appealed to Vyse, but they also appeal to the stylish art girl, who may be captivated by their waves and strong heel.
Aphrodisiac, Oli Epp, 2019
View this post on Instagram
?☠️ ‘Aphrodisiac’, 2019, oil and acrylic on canvas, 200cm x 160cm . . I’ll be hosting a breakfast at @carl.kostyal gallery in the New Year. More info about that soon… ? ? ? . . #unpleasurable #aphrodisiacs #food #desire #sweetlysinister #oxymoron #jessicarabbit #aphrodite #botticelli #badoysters #sensual #lovelife #contemporarypainting #carlkostyal #oliepp
The shiny red stiletto in Oli Epp’s recent painting is certainly an eye-grabber. Worn by this pink curvaceous Jessica Rabbit-style figure, it oozes sex appeal and excess. There is something a little naughty about this lady too, covered in tattoos and teasing her audience with strawberries and oysters, it’s certainly a shoe for somebody with an eye for the spotlight.
Text Lizzy Vartanian