In the continuing saga of Facebook vs the ludicrous notion that artist’s from Corbet to Maplethorpe to even Denmark’s national mascot The Little Mermaid are obscene, we present the latest case. Meet the 52-year-old who isn’t allowed on Facebook because she’s “too suggestive”. This painting titled ‘Ice Cream’ created by the feminist, Pop Artists Evelyne Axell, in 1964 was uploaded by the Philadelphia Museum of Art last week, however Facebook censors removed it almost immediately, after stating it was too suggestive. Facebook rules state that “excessive amounts of skin or suggestive content” will be removed and the account suspended if more are posted.
The museum has described the artist as one of “the first female Pop artists who, when it came to art, only had one thing on her mind – confidence. “Evelyne aimed to paint pictures of women who were confident in their pursuit of satisfaction, rather than the decorative objects they were painted as in mainstream Pop Art. “Axell’s provocative paintings challenge artistic conventions while also exhibiting a liberated, playful spirit characteristic of the sexual revolution of the 1960s.”
In 1964, Axell quit her promising acting career to pursue painting. She enlisted Surrealist painter René Magritte, a family friend of Antoine’s, to be her artistic mentor. Axell visited with Magritte twice a month for a whole year, during which time he helped her improve her oil painting technique. At the same time, Antoine embarked on a series of documentaries devoted to Pop Art and Nouveau Realisme. Axell went with Antoine to London for filming and met Allen Jones, Peter Phillips, Pauline Boty, Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield, and Joe Tilson. Inspired by these studio visits, Axell created her own style of Pop art, becoming one of the first Belgian artists to experiment within this avant-garde idiom. Although Belgian collectors were interested in her work, private galleries were resistant to showing her paintings. At this time she started to use the androgynous name “Axell” professionally, in the hopes that she would be taken seriously as an artist despite her gender, youth, and beauty, not to mention the explicit sexual nature of her work.
In 1966, her Erotomobiles paintings won an honorable mention in the Young Painters Prize. In early 1967, she had her first solo exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Shortly thereafter, she stopped using oil on canvas and began painting plastic, first clartex and later plexiglas, with auto enamel. This new method became her signature technique, which she showed for the first time at an exhibition at the Galerie Contour in Brussels in the fall of 1967.
In 1969 she won the Young Belgian Painters Prize, no small feat for a female artist at that time. She organized a few elicit happenings as she continued to make increasingly erotic paintings. In 1970 she painted Le Peintre (Autoportrait) [The Painter (Self-Portrait)] said to be the first painting in which a woman painted herself naked and as an artist. Critic Pierre Restany commented, “The Belgian painter Evelyne Axell has joined the company of womanpower’s art, with Niki de Saint Phalle from France, Yayoi Kusama from Japan,Marisol from Venezuela – and the list goes on. These women are living their sexual revolution as real women, with all the direct, unsurprising consequences: the other side is taking the initiative.”
In 1972 Axell visited her uncle’s family in Guatemala, Jean Devaux, the creator of the Guatemala Ballet, where she became enamored with the landscape and vowed to return. She had secured an exhibition in Mexico for 1973, decided to divorce from her husband and move to Central America for a few years where she had found a nice house in Guatemala with the help of the Devaux family. But her life and career were unexpectedly cut short in a tragic car crash outside of Gent, Belgium. Axell died in the early morning of 10 September 1972.