Article, 2013

TateShots: Yves Klein Anthropometries

Elena Palumbo-Mosca

TateShots asked one of Yves Klein's collaborators about her experience of being used as a 'human paintbrush'

Yves Klein used naked women as ‘human paintbrushes’ to make his Anthropometry paintings, which were produced as elaborate performances in front of an audience. Klein, in bow-tie and suit, would conduct the women as they covered themselves in paint (a colour he patented as ‘International Klein Blue’) and made imprints of their bodies. During the performance musicians played his Klein's Monotone Symphony – a single note played for twenty minutes, followed by twenty minutes of silence.

TateShots talked to Elena Palumbo-Mosca, who modelled for Klein, and who appears in footage of one such performance which was shown in the exhibition A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance, at Tate Modern.

Various Speakers:

Yves Klein’s anthropometry events were one of the key events in the history of painting and performance. They really mark a shift from painting as something that happens on the canvas to artists exposing the making of painting.

I met Yves when I was working and living in Nice. This collaboration came much later when we both lived in Paris. Yves was always experiencing new ways of expressing what he wanted to say and what he felt he had to say.

For me it was quite easy to do it because I was used to using my body and I could execute with a certain precision what he asked me to do.

People have criticised the work since, the way that he used naked female models as instruments in his work and they were called living brushes at the time. Elena and the participants said that they felt he treated them entirely respectfully as collaborators.

I think it's Yves’s work, he was the mind behind it and I was able to understand and to turn his ideas into something tangible. I just look at what I was doing and I think it was interesting, and I think I was quite lucky to participate in this experience.