“Whose woods these are, I think I”—whoa! We can’t quote any more of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” because it is still under copyright as this magazine goes to press. But come January 1, 2019, we, you, and everyone in America will be able to quote it at length on any platform.
At midnight on New Year’s Eve, all works first published in the United States in 1923 will enter the public domain. It has been 21 years since the last mass expiration of copyright in the U.S.
That deluge of works includes not just “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which appeared first in the New Republic in 1923, but hundreds of thousands of books, musical compositions, paintings, poems, photographs and films. After January 1, any record label can issue a dubstep version of the 1923 hit “Yes! We Have No Bananas,” any middle school can produce Theodore Pratt’s stage adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and any historian can publish Winston Churchill’s The World Crisis with her own extensive annotations. Any artist can create and sell a feminist response to Marcel Duchamp’s seminal Dadaist piece, The Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even) and any filmmaker can remake Cecil B. DeMille’s original The Ten Commandments and post it on YouTube.
“The public domain has been frozen in time for 20 years, and we’re reaching the 20-year thaw,” says Jennifer Jenkins, director of Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. The release is unprecedented, and its impact on culture and creativity could be huge. We have never seen such a mass entry into the public domain in the digital age. The last one—in 1998, when 1922 slipped its copyright bond—predated Google. “We have shortchanged a generation,” said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “The 20th century is largely missing from the internet.”
For academics fearful of quoting from copyrighted texts, teachers who may be violating the law with every photocopy, and modern-day artists in search of inspiration, the event is a cause for celebration. For those who dread seeing Frost’s immortal ode to winter used in an ad for snow tires, “Public Domain Day,” as it is sometimes known, will be less joyful. Despite that, even fierce advocates for copyright agree that, after 95 years, it is time to release these works. “There comes a point when a creative work belongs to history as much as to its author and her heirs,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild.
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We can blame Mickey Mouse for the long wait. In 1998, Disney was one of the loudest in a choir of corporate voices advocating for longer copyright protections. At the time, all works published before January 1, 1978, were entitled to copyright protection for 75 years; all author’s works published on or after that date were under copyright for the lifetime of the creator, plus 50 years. Steamboat Willie, featuring Mickey Mouse’s first appearance on screen, in 1928, was set to enter the public domain in 2004. At the urging of Disney and others, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, named for the late singer, songwriter and California representative, adding 20 years to the copyright term. Mickey would be protected until 2024—and no copyrighted work would enter the public domain again until 2019, creating a bizarre 20-year hiatus between the release of works from 1922 and those from 1923.
This hole in history was accidental, but it occurred at a remarkable moment. The novelist Willa Cather called 1922 the year “the world broke in two,” the start of a great literary, artistic and cultural upheaval. In 1922, Ulysses by James Joyce and T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” were published, and the Harlem Renaissance blossomed with the arrival of Claude McKay’s poetry in Harlem Shadows. For two decades those works have been in the public domain, enabling artists, critics and others to burnish that notable year to a high gloss in our historical memory. In comparison, 1923 can feel dull.
But that was the year Noël Coward staged his first musical, the hit London Calling!, and Jean Toomer came out with his breakthrough novel about African-American life, Cane. Because access to these and other works from the year has been limited, our understanding of the tumultuous 1920s is skewed. That will begin to change January 1, when digital compendia such as the Internet Archive, Google Books and HathiTrust will make tens of thousands of books available, with more to follow. They and others will also add heaps of newspapers, magazines, movies and other materials.
Much the same will happen every January 1 until 2073, revealing long-overlooked works from the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, World War II and beyond. (After 2073, works published by authors who died seven decades earlier will expire each year.) “We’re going to open these time capsules on a yearly basis...and potentially have our understanding of that year and all the contents change,” said Paul Saint-Amour, a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and editor of Modernism and Copyright.
“We can’t predict what uses people are going to make of the work we make available,” said Mike Furlough, executive director of HathiTrust. “And that’s what makes that so exciting,”
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“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” How refreshing it is to quote freely from another iconic Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken,” published in his poetry collection Mountain Interval in 1916. Its copyright expired in 1992 and that has made all the difference. The poem has inspired lyrics from Bruce Hornsby, Melissa Etheridge and George Strait, and its phrases have been used to sell cars, careers, computers and countless dorm room posters that feature the final lines as an exhortation to individualism that the poet likely never intended.
On January 1, HathiTrust will publish Frost’s collection New Hampshire, including “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” online and it will finally be available for anyone to adapt. Perhaps no one is more bemused by that prospect than the composer Eric Whitacre. In 1999, believing the poem had already entered the public domain (the last-minute copyright extension prevented that), Whitacre accepted a commission to turn it into a choral piece. After just two performances, Whitacre said, Frost’s publisher and the Frost estate shut him down, refusing to license the work. Whitacre eventually produced a different version of the work, titled “Sleep,” with lyrics written for it by the poet Charles Anthony Silvestri. He is now considering releasing the work in its original form. “All I wanted to do,” Whitacre said, “is illuminate the original poem with music.”
When that year's copyright skedaddles, you'll have instant access to countless titles, including these overlooked gems
“The Vanishing American” in Ladies’ Home Journal By Zane Grey One of the first literary critiques of the treatment of Native Americans; harsher than the later novel and silent film.
A Handbook of Cookery for a Small House By Jessie Conrad A peek into the life of author Joseph Conrad via his wife’s recipe collection.
Our American Adventure By Arthur Conan Doyle The creator of Sherlock Holmes recounts his popular (and controversial) lecture tour in support of Modern Spiritualism.
The Chip Woman’s Fortune By Willis Richardson The first drama by an African-American author produced on Broadway; a one-act story of a family in financial straits.
“Nebraska” in The Nation By Willa Cather She laments the cultural and economic homogenization in her beloved state.
The Real Story of a Bootlegger By Anonymous The purportedly honest account of life as a criminal under the 18th Amendment: “Prohibition made me a millionaire.”
If you want to visit Venice this year, you will have to pay to play. The floating city could now charge tourists an extra €10 ($12) per day to visit its romantic winding streets and canals and to see its historic sites and museums.
As a part of its 2019 budget that was released last weekend, the Italian government included a clause stating that Venice may charge short-stay tourists seeking to enter the Italian city. The tax should be implemented by this year’s high season, which begins in late spring. It is expected to range between €2.50 and €5 ($2.85 and $5.70) per person, but during peak summer tourism, it could rise to €10 ($12).
The 2019 Venice Biennial is set to take place this May, at the beginning of Venice’s high season, which could potentially coincide with the new “landing tax” coming into place. Representatives for the Venice Biennale did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new policy.
The historic city, which has a population of 50,000 citizens, attracts around 25 to 30 million foreign visitors per year, according to the Italian tourist bureau. Less than a third of them stay overnight in Venice. The tax will target these kinds of tourists, many of whom arrive on cruise ships, which flock to the canal city year-round. According to Statista, 1.4 million cruise passengers on hundreds of ships came to Venice in 2017.
Environmental concerns abound over these massive ships and their impact on the fragile lagoon’s ecosystem, which is rapidly eroding. A UNESCO report released last fall outlined the risk posed to Venice due to the effects of climate change; it is among several vulnerable and historic port cities that could become permanently underwater. Last October, the city saw the worst flooding in decades.
Furthermore, because cruise-ship tourists sleep and often eat their meals on the boat, the city sees their relative cost to the city as higher than other visitors who come by car or plane and end up spending more when staying in the city.
The battle with the tourism industry is ongoing and difficult, since the sector is also the source of the city’s financial livelihood. In September, locals and environmentalists on small boats staged a protest at the passage of a large cruise ship near St Mark’s. Last May, the city also installed a trial set-up of turnstiles aimed at curbing the overflow of tourists, while letting Venetian residents gain access more easily. Some vehemently opposed them, saying that the new measures would turn the city into a version of Disneyland.
There is already a seven-year-old tax in place for overnighting visitors that brings in around €30 million ($35 million) per year. This landing tax for day-trippers could add an additional €50 million ( $58 million), which the city’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, says will “protect those who live, study and work in our territory.”
Even when artists are working with the same subject, the results can be dramatically different, reflecting their personal style, choice of medium, and other artistic decisions. This fundamental truth will be in evidence at the New York Academy of Art’s “Take Home a Nude” benefit auction, where 112 artists, from Ryan McGinness to Natalie Frank, have each donated distinctly unique drawings made of the same nude models.
They both took part in Will Cotton’s annual Drawing Party, in which the painter enlists fellow New York artists to get together and sketch nude models for “Take Home a Nude.” The gala, now in its 26th year, takes place tonight at Sotheby’s Upper East Side headquarters, honoring artist John Alexander.
Will Cotton sketching Oscar O’Brien at the “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Guests will have the chance to rub elbows with the likes of Princess Beatrice of York, Brooke Shields, Chris Noth, Padma Lakshmi, and Naomi Watts; and purchase works from such luminaries as Christo, Eric Fischl, Walter Robinson, and Kiki Smith.
What sets “Take Home a Nude” apart from other benefit auctions is the section of figure drawing works. Although a fundamental part of any arts education, the practice is overlooked among many professional artists. Back in 2002, when Cotton, an academy grad, was looking to do more figurative work, he realized he needed to get back to basics, and return to figure drawing.
The artist Jansson Stegner drawing at Will Cotton’s “Drawing Party.” Image courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
“To keep myself in practice, I have to practice,” he explained. Cotton hosts regular drawing parties at his studio, which he believes fosters “a sense of community” among participating artists. “I love the New York Academy,” he added. “They taught me a lot of what I know, a long time ago.”
The theme for Cotton’s 2017 Drawing Party was the sons and daughters of the art world. Glenn O’Brien’s son, Oscar; Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn’s daughter, Coco; Anne Pasternak and Mike Starn’s daughter, Paris; and Barbara Gladstone’s grandson, Eli, joined the nude models, albeit fully clothed, each posing for 20 minutes.
Artist Ryan McGinness during the “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Academy president David Kratz called “Take Home a Nude” a “celebration of the work that our artists are doing,” noting that the benefit is essential to the school’s continued success.
It also helps produce some pretty great art. “It’s remarkable. Same exact pose, same model, and all these different interpretations,” said Cotton. “That’s why we do it, why drawing from a live model is important.
See 10 artworks made from the same pose below:
Work by Sean Mount from the “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Work (detail) made by Jean Pierre Roy. Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
A drawing by James Adelman. Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Work by L.C. Armstrong from the “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Work by Peter Drake from the “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Work by Jansson Stegner from the “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Work by Raphael Sassi from the “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Work by Taylor Schultek from the “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Work by Lisa Rosen from the “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Work by Sebastian Blanck from the “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Artists working from live models at Will Cotton’s “Drawing Party.” Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Last month, several women came forward with complaints that artist Chuck Close sexually harassed them while they were modeling in his studio. The allegations, published in the Huffington Post and Hyperallergic, tended to follow a common pattern: A woman was invited to pose for the artist, asked to undress, and then endured lewd sexual remarks from Close. The women tended to leave feeling exploited and disrespected, they said.
From time immemorial, the nude body has played a vital function in art across cultures and eras. But in the 21st century, we have come to expect a certain level of professionalism to safeguard both models and artists in what can be a sensitive interaction.
Regardless of one’s opinions about Close, the controversy offers a teaching opportunity: What is and is not acceptable behavior when it comes to working with nude models?
artnet News spoke with two nude models and the director of the drawing department at the New York Academy of Art, which relies heavily on figure drawing in its curricula, and provides handbooks outlining protocols to its roster of around 68 models. From these interviews we compiled a list of guidelines for both the artist and model.
Michael Grimaldi teaching figure drawing. Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
Do: Communicate up front whether or not the model will pose nude.
Some of the women who complained about Close said that they went to his studio with the belief that he would paint their face for a large-scale portrait. They were not expecting to be asked to take off their clothes, they said.
“Most of the time the artist and the subject discuss ideas about what the concept of the final product will look like, including the wardrobe or lack thereof,” said Natalie White, an artist and model, who has posed nude for George Condo, Peter Beard, Marc Quinn, Spencer Tunick, and Close himself.
“If the model isn’t well known for taking their clothes off it should definitely be discussed ahead of time. And if the artist feels that the subject should take their clothes off in the middle of the session, they should schedule the unclothed session for a later day to give the model a chance to think about it,” said White, but pointed out that there may be exceptions with models who frequently pose nude. Otherwise, a model may change her mind afterward, meaning “you’ve just wasted time and resources on something you may not be able to use, or left the model feeling bad about what they have just done.”
The British actors’ union has laid this issue out in its code of conduct, which states that “any nudity/semi nudity will be personally approved by the model before the shoot takes place.”
Photo courtesy of Natalie White.
Don’t: Touch the models.
That is the most important rule, said White. “Don’t move their arm to a different angle, don’t touch their face to change the angle in which it’s tilted,” she says. “If you want a nude model to alter their pose it should be described with words, or the photographer or artist can show them by [demonstrating with their own body].”
Michael Grimaldi, faculty chair and director of New York Academy of Art’s drawing program, agreed—but offered a few limited exceptions. “The only instances where [touching] may occur is during the marking of a long pose and, in my experience, during lectures focusing on anatomical structures. For instance, using calipers to measure a distance directly on the model or using resistance to activate a muscle action. Whatever the circumstance, any potential physical contact is brought up beforehand, always with consent, boundaries respected, and exclusively work-based and professional.”
George Condo, Toy Face with Ponytail (2014), a painting for which Natalie White posed nude. Courtesy of the artist/Skarstedt Gallery.
Do: Put the model’s comfort before the artist’s interests.
Carla Rodriguez, a former intern at New York’s 20×24 Studio, an instant photography studio that worked regularly with Close on his large-format Polaroid portraits, was invited to pose for the artist in 2009. She told Hyperallergic that she was surprised when Close allegedly asked her to undress beneath a spotlight in the darkened studio, rather than in a dressing room. “Having been a figure model, I’m used to being able to undress privately. It’s mostly inappropriate to take your clothes off in the middle of the classroom,” she said.
Like the artist, a model is a working professional and should be treated as such. “This includes making sure that the model stand, drapery, and props are clean and in place; that the model’s changing room is secure and clean; that the temperature is comfortable and additional space heaters are in place in consideration that the model will be nude and in a relatively static pose, potentially for an extended period of time,” said Grimaldi.
“If a nude subject is uncomfortable in any way, whether it’s the temperature being too cold or they want assistants out of the room, they should say so immediately,” said White. “You need to be direct about how you feel. If you are uncomfortable it will come out in the images, and for that reason the artist should want you to be comfortable because they understand that too.”
Kurt McVey modeling for the Artful Bachelorette. Photo courtesy of Kristy May/the Artful Bachelorette.
Don’t: Ignore red flags.
“I can’t stress enough, if you are uncomfortable in any way it’s really important for you to say it out loud,” said White. “Good people don’t want you to feel uncomfortable in a work environment, so if they don’t react well to you telling them you feel uncomfortable then they aren’t a good person and you probably are not in a good work environment.”
“Red flags for a model might be requests from students, requests to be photographed, inappropriate language, poses that might threaten their physical or mental comfort,” Grimaldi said. “That does not necessarily mean a sexual pose—it could even mean a pose that the model says would be physically difficult to execute and hold the pose for the necessary time.”
Do: Decide what environment is most comfortable for you.
Some situations may be strictly silent, such as at the academy, where “students do not initiate conversation with the model,” Grimaldi said. But model Kurt McVey finds such buttoned-up atmospheres stifling.
That’s why he got involved with the Artful Bachelorette, which hosts nude figure drawing classes for brides-to-be and their friends. He was struck by the amount of laughter in the room, which he found to be “a counterbalance to the often pretentious New York art world,” McVey told artnet News.
“They encourage engagement with the model and the people in the class,” he said. “As the model, I’m providing a space for what I like to call consensual objectification!”
He finds the experience of modeling in this environment to be “continually cathartic and therapeutic for me as an individual—and incredibly liberating for the women.”
A party with nude figure drawing hosted by the Artful Bachelorette. Photo courtesy of the Artful Bachelorette.
Don’t: Bring your cell phone.
Posing nude for a drawing or painting is a completely different beast than posing for a photograph—and permission for one does not imply permission for the other.
“Because cell phones have the capability of taking photographs (along with the instant ability to post images on social media), students are notified that cell phone use under any circumstance is strictly forbidden in the classroom,” said Grimaldi. “The models are also encouraged that should they see a cell phone, they have every right to terminate the pose.”