OM Report #20: Appetites

by Rachel Tayeb  Jan 18, 2012

From the Prologue of Appetites by Renoir, a woman's memoir on anorexia

The women linger at the water's edge, and they are stunning in the most unusual way: large women, voluptuous, abundant, delighted. They lounge along the riverbank, the lift their arms toward the sun, their hair ripples down their backs, which are smooth and broad and strong.nThere is a softness in the way they move, and also strength and sensuality, as though they revel in the feel of their own heft and substance.

Step back from the canvas, and observe, think, feel. This is an image of bounty, a view of female physicality in which a woman's hungers are both celebrated and undifferentiated, as though all her appetites are of a piece, the physical and emotional entwined and given equal weight. Food is love on this landscape, and love is sex, and sex is connection, and connection is food; appetites exist in full circle, or in a sonata where eating and touching and making love and feeling close are all distinct chords that nonetheless meld with and complement one another.

Renoir, who created this image, once said that were it not for the female body, he never could have become a painter. This is clear: there is love for women in each detail of the canvas, and love for self, and there is joy, and there is a degree of sensual integration that makes you want to weep, so beautiful it seems, and so elusive.

There is irony in the fact that this was the opening piece to a memoir on anorexia, as an anorexic seeks to be thinnest person in the room and voluptuous curves are not something we strive for. Yet Renoir touches on something deeper than appearance. He touches on the fullness of a woman who admits that she's hungry; the fullness of a woman who knows who she is. The fullness of a woman who says yes to her desire.