Don’t just do something – sit there.

In theory yoga is this beautiful, wonderful, spiritual experience that is meant to cleanse mind, body, and soul. In practice yoga causes a slew of frowned upon words to come flying out of my mouth at record speeds. It is a deep, dark torture which we, as masochists, inflict upon ourselves day after day of shaking cores, trembling arms, and ready-to-collapse legs. We stretch ourselves in ways we never thought possible, only to discover they are possible, but will we be stuck this way forever?

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“Son, if you don’t finish this portrait soon…”
Édouard Manet, Mr and Mrs Auguste Manet, 1860.
Oil on canvas, 110 x 90 cm.
Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

The idea of sitting still long enough to have my portrait painted makes my muscles ache in a way that I’ve only known through Downward-Facing Dog (the most bastardly position of all yoga forms). Though I have flirted with the idea of recreating the nude sofa scene in Titanic, I’m just not sure I could take the prolonged torture of not only remaining still, but also keeping my face from contorting or appearing as bored as I imagine I would feel. (Fun fact: Leonardo DiCaprio did NOT sketch Kate Winslet; those are James Cameron’s hands!)

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Édouard Manet, Street Singer, c. 1862.
Oil on canvas, 171.1 x 105.8 cm.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Without portrait painters and patient subjects, prior to the 1840s, we would have no idea what people of the past looked like. While, for some people, we are likely better being unaware of their looks (or odours) – considering the slow advancement in personal hygiene and photoshop – it would be more difficult to learn from the fashion faux pas of history.

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Now, that’s a portrait I could easily pose for.
Édouard Manet, The Dead Toreador, probably 1864.
Oil on canvas, 75.9 x 153.3 cm.
Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

I certainly would not recommend being painted in Downward-Facing Dog; all of your blood would pool in your brain and you would assuredly die. See Manet: Portraying Life at the Royal Academy of Arts London from 26 Jan through 14 April for some postural suggestions concerning your next portrait painting. Also admire the intense richness of Édouard Manet’s many portraits in Manet by Nathalia Brodskaya.

-Le Lorrain Andrews