France's Nude Art Models Rally for Better Working Conditions

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Students painting "from life" at the École des Beaux-Arts in the late 1800s.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

France's professional nude models are fed up with stripping down for low wages in terrible conditions. A group called La Coordination des modèles has been fighting since 2008 to improve the working conditions and wages for the country's professional nude models, and organized a protest on July 7, according to a weirdly titillating video report by Libération.

"We protested precisely because all the complaints and demands we've been bringing since 2008 have amounted to nothing," says Patrick Bellaiche, coordinator of the Collectif des modèles d'art de Paris.

Many of France's nude art models are not artists or students doing it for supplemental income, but full-time, professional models. They generally make €15 per hour (a little over $20) working days that can last from six to nine hours, generally holding poses for three hours at a time, with 15-minute breaks. But because they have no contracts or salaries, they don't receive any benefits and they have no job security. If a class gets canceled at the last minute, the model is down a day's work. If a model is sick, the art schools will just call someone else.

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José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior, Studio in Paris (1880).
Via Wikimedia Commons.

"We're asking for a reassessment of our wages and the problem of our status," says Patricia Clark, a member of La Coordination des modèles. "We have no status, we are technically temp workers, so we're sitting in ejection seats, and that's unacceptable…That's not what a temp worker is supposed to be, he's not supposed to be working every day, six hours per day, 33 weeks per year."

The group is calling on the Ministère de la Culture to give nude art models a more secure status as professional workers. In addition to improved benefits and job security, the models are calling for more hygienic, less physically strenuous conditions in live painting and drawing classes. Muscle spasms and exhaustion are common complaints, particularly when posing for sculpture classes that demand the same pose be held for weeks on end.

"It's part of a long tradition in painting," says Nicolas Thuet, an actor and nude art model. "That's why it deserves a little recognition. What would you do without us?"

Watch Libération's video report on the plight of France's professional nude models: