The Life Room: Women Looking at Men


The Male Nude @ The Wallace Collection

‘Men act and women appear,’ wrote John Berger, but what if a (purely conicidentally) women-only group of writers got to spend the morning looking at naked men? 

Here’s the prompts. Check out the ‘Where’s Wallace?’ page to read what we wrote.

Before the exhibition –

Make your own notes on any of the following –

When, Where, Who? – Occasions when you have looked at naked men – Perhaps family, film, within relationship, as naturist, by accident (changing rooms, etc.) in professional capacity (artist, nurse, etc…) Record any details you care to, including how it felt to look.

In the exhibition –

1. Make notes on what you see:

Select one drawing and accurately transcribe – create a word picture (think: radio journalist, or phoning someone and enabling them to see what you see).

Think about the language you use (naked? nude? unclothed?  anatomical? coded?)

2. Choose a narrative –

Imagine – and then write from the point of view of one of the following:

  • The invigilator
  • The artist
  • The model
  • A visitor to the Wallace Collection
  • Someone who should not have been in the Life Room.

(Take a look at the review for historical and factual information to help with this.)

You may choose to write from the present day or historically.

Afterwards –

Using the gallery map, find any relevant paintings and artworks and consider the changes in context – has studying the drawings informed the way you now look at these?

Imagine owning the artwork, or using one of the persona (above) and developing it – eg. the model visits himself on a piece of porcelain…


About claire collison

Writer, photographer, creative facilitator, and breast cancer survivor, I am currently Artist in Residence at the Women's Art Library (WAL) My first novel was a finalist in the Dundee Book Prize, and my short stories and poetry have appeared in print and online. In 2015 I was awarded second place in the inaugural Resurgence Prize, the world's first eco poetry competition, judged by Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. This blog began as a space for words generated on my walking/writing workshops at the Mary Ward centre in Bloomsbury - Writing the City (WTC). WTC has since grown to include many other venues, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Barbican, the River Rom, Southwark Woods, Aylesbury Estate, and most recently, as part of Walking Women festival, An Intimate Tour of Breasts. I have worked with Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, as the recipient of the first Max Reinhardt Literacy Award, designing teaching resources; and for The Photographers' Gallery, helping school children develop visual literacy as part of 'Seeing More Things'. If you would like me to design a workshop or walk for you, please be in touch!
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