OIL PAINTING: Seated Nude: The Black Hat, 1900
Philip Wilson Steer experimented with the nude in a number of paintings around the turn of the century, ranging from the naturalism of pictures such as this to the baroque richness of The Toilet of Venus (1898). Freely painted, the bedroom setting here increases the eroticism of the subject, and has interesting affinities and contrasts to William Orpen's drawing A Nude Girl Seated on a Bed and his subsequent The English Nude. Although she has otherwise completely undressed, the model retains her hat, a feature which serves to emphasise her nakedness. The contrast between nudity and exotic headgear is found occasionally in Renaissance treatments of the male nude such as Donatello's David. Such was the negative response to Seated Nude: The Black Hat by Steer's intimates, that he never exhibited the picture and it remained in his studio until in 1941 it was bought by John Rothenstein for the Contemporary Art Society and presented to the Tate Gallery. Steer explained to Rothenstein: "when it was painted, years ago, friends told me it was spoiled by the hat; they thought it was indecent that a nude should be wearing a hat so it's never been shown" (quoted Chamot, Farr and Butlin 1964). The model was a Miss Geary, who also posed for a standing nude in the same hat.