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Capturing Chloe: Reimagining a Melbourne icon

Kell, Katrina (2018) Capturing Chloe: Reimagining a Melbourne icon. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Embargoed until December 2019.

Abstract

The nude painting Chloe, created in 1875 by French artist Jules Lefebvre, which has hung at Young and Jackson Hotel since 1909, is a much-loved Melbourne cultural icon. Chloe has been the subject of controversy and mythologising, particularly in relation to the Parisian model who sat for the painting. This production-based thesis, through a work of historical fiction and an exegesis, imaginatively renders and recontextualises Lefebvre’s Chloe to illustrate how these myths have, in part, contributed to reductive portrayals and interpretations of both the painting and its model.

The manuscript “Capturing Chloe” is a fictional narrative tracing Chloe’s impact on an Australian family during World War One, and the volatile world of Jules Lefebvre’s Parisian model, as she and other proletarian women determine to challenge the social and political forces that oppress them in the aftermath of the Second French Empire and the Franco-Prussian War.

The exegesis uses textual analysis and historical research to interrogate the origins of Chloe, and the source of myths that have variously constructed or constituted identities for the painting’s model. While exploring shifting ideas about the model’s identity since the painting’s debut in 1875, this analysis demonstrates the significance of textual artefacts in the ongoing process of reinterpreting and remaking Chloe. The exegesis explores an anecdote Lefebvre shared about his model, and a tale the Anglo-Irish writer George Moore wrote about “Lefebvre’s Chloe” in his memoirs. This work describes Moore’s student days in Paris, and his mythologising of a young woman who, I propose, may have been the model for Chloe.

By recontextualising, reimagining and rewriting myths about Chloe’s model, and exploring the painting’s origins and its reception by Australian viewers throughout the decades, this thesis contributes new insights into and an original understanding of one of Australia’s most celebrated cultural icons.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Supervisor: Lazaroo, Simone and Moody, David
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/42654
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