Dial up testosterone

Spatial visualization ability is one of the necessary (but not sufficient, in math terms) talent components. And one of the reasons men get to be creative (here, a careless writer might be tempted to add “more than women”, only to get ravaged by feminist critique) is their high testosterone level, that somehow links up to their increased spatial ability.

Even the most creative men may not be aware of this fact (proven by a test with testosterone injections into lab rats against a control sample of their castrated male comrades), but they have a gut feeling they need more of the hormone. That’s why male artists are so much into the whole muse thing. Guys, muses don’t provide divine inspiration: they raise very secular testosterone levels.

It’s not surprising then that many male artists have been notoriously famous for bedding and occasionally even marrying their models. Many of those artists would ultimately re-marry other models, but what would you expect from a male chauvinist bastard driven by his subconscious craving for more testosterone? Forgive him, for he was motivated by a noble purpose: the need to better rotate 3D objects in his mind, to make more of his great art.

Ms Venus, whom I recently interviewed in this blog, believes the nude genre has been largely defined and informed by hormones. But then, even though she is a goddess, she never said she was omnipresent and omnipotent, so her opinion is open to debate.

We didn’t cover German expressionism with her, for the very obvious reason: Ms Venus agrees to model for artists concerned with the ideal beauty concept but not the ones interested in creating stimuli for mental masturbation. She loves playing with scandal, but hates being a part of one.

And what a scandal it was! Imagine the beginning of the past century, when women couldn’t yet vote,  Picasso had just slapped the public cheek with his Avignon girls, and Harem Pants were testing the limits of societal decency:


German artists were the Pussy Riots of the time with this:

There were four of them, initially, untrained university drop-outs with a mission to reinvent art by rejecting traditional values. And only two of them (Kirchner and Heckel) went revolutionary about the female body.

It was criminally radical. One of the group, Fritz Bleyl, designed a poster for the first group show that featured a very modest nude.


This excellent graphic work was still banned by the police.

Ironically, their “new values” would become traditional and then outdated in less than a decade. I wish there was a woman among them, though. If a painting similar to the ones above was made by a woman, she would be proclaimed the greatest and the bravest female artist. Alas, they were all men.

These four Germans started painting nudes with their legs spread wide open, and vaginas exposed in no uncertain terms (Egon Schiele would break the last taboos a few years later).

At their early, pre-war, years, they preferred blues, greens, oranges, and reds, and loved crowning their models with fashionable hats or bows.  For a time, their art wasn’t passionate and dark, it was…irreverent and cheerful.

While the innovative value of their art is as obvious as its scandalous character, the big question is, are these nudes any good outside of art history context?

Think about it. I’ll make a close-up on this lady over the weekend.

Erich Heckel, Egyptian girl, 1909
Erich Heckel, Egyptian girl, 1909

In the meantime, you can read what the curators have to say about it (not that it helps to understand anything):


Oh, and one more thing: why would they leave the hat on?

PS I am sorry to have told you about the castrated male rats, but if you thought neuroscience is just about harmless brain scans, and IQ tests, you were very wrong.


    1. You mean the inventor of French pin-up art? Was he a relative of yours? I mean I know his work, certainly – because men are instantly attracted to his erotically seductive nudes )

  1. I don’t think I’ve seen a more homelier bunch of female nude paintings in my life. If the artists were motivated by testosterone that would surprise me. I would suspect that these artistic results are probably motivated by some supressed guilt. Sure they are nude but they are so ugly, who cares? I’ve painted a number of female nudes in oil and have tried to bring out the beauty of the female form. I did this while raising young children and caring for a husband. Testosterone/progesterone who cares – beauty is beauty and who doesn’t appreciate that ?

  2. Interesting question, if a better orientation on maps or (as a rat- in a labyrint) will produce better visual artists.
    But this study might be interesting:
    It´s my own poor translation from German to English:
    “In creativity women are rather independent from hormones. A study of the Arizona State University showed, that men writing short stories were obviously more creative, when they thougt of an attractiv woman. For the female test persons such amorous fantasies did not improve their creativ output. Conclusion:
    men have more need for a muse to be creative than a woman.”
    What do you think about this?

    1. Thank you for the Arizona study! Very amusing )
      Spatial ability is just one factor out of many that load up onto creativity (if we understand it as the ability to come up to novel conclusions or ideas via connecting very different kinds of data, spatial visualisation must come handy). No one yet knows how the link between it and testosterone actually works, except that the link exists…

  3. Very interesting! What I see in all three images is that the women are just sitting there without ‘participating’ in any way. They do not seem to have any purpose there other than providing visual reference for the painting in process. The Egyptian girl which you have singled out for your next post looks slightly retarded. Otherwise the treatment of line and colour reminds me of early Matisse. Can’t wait to read the reveal!

    1. You are very right. One of these artists, when he wanted to stress the intellectual side of a woman he portrayed, would dramatically enlarge her head )

  4. It’s very nice to read that “men get to be creative” (more than women), because of their testosterone.
    If Leonardo da Vinci had been forced to remain pregnant, breastfeeding children, take care of all the household chores, if he had been obliged to take care of sick parents, or spouse, also works out of the house, would he have had time to paint the Mona Lisa and everything else? (this is not feminist critique, but the realities of every day)

    About the nudes of Kirchner, Heckel and also Schiele (I think this last one was the best) those are all female nudes, painted by artists men.
    Perhaps artists women would have painted male nudes, provided that they had had time to do it or they deemed it interesting.
    Perhaps the German Expressionism was a movement of rebellion against the politics of his time, but, I believe that every age influences the art and that art becomes, often, the representation of its age, always bearing in mind that artists and art dealers, to live, must find ways to interest customers.
    I wish you a happy week end.
    See you soon

    1. I totally agree that maternity can be distracting for a female artist (or it can be not distracting, I guess, it depends…). I can’t imagine if Leonardo would have time to put 3000 brushstrokes per square inch if he also had to wash clothes. Perhaps, if he had to wash his clothes, we might get a washing machine some 400 years earlier )) As for the male artists I am showing here, well, they also had a distraction (as well as Egon Schiele: they had to go to war.

      When I said I wished one of them was a woman, I didn’t mean she would have to paint male nudes. I meant it would be revolutionary for a woman to present the female body in this way. And, truth be told, there were two very good female artists who joined the Bridge group a bit later, but their work is nowhere near breaking the taboos that existed at the time.

      1. Yes, you are right: they had to go to first world war, they was influenced by the art of Gauguin, Van Gogh ( and Nietzsche’s philosophy).
        Will you tell me, please, the names of the women artists of Die Bruecke?

It would be grand to hear from you now!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: