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The Drawing Class

A work made of oil and charcoal on canvas.

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  • A work made of oil and charcoal on canvas.




Nicole Eisenman
American, born France 1965

About this artwork

The artists depicted in The Drawing Class, who study a crudely rendered nude model,embody human and inhuman characteristics. Their blank stares and closed mouths suggest an overall feeling of calm and contemplation. Eisenman disturbed this, however, with violent scratch marks that wipe out a figure’s face and distortions of the female form. She objectified the female figure through the alien appearance of the model and the exaggerated anatomy depicted in a painting on the wall. Within a complex back-and-forth of gazes, the viewer appears to stand in for an artist, locking eyes with the model. A mirror leaning against the studio’s back wall contains a blurred reflection that allows yet another entry point for the viewer. According to artist Amy Sillman, “The gaze is critical [in Eisenman’s work]. We look at someone as they look at someone or something, creating instant shame at the self-consciousness involved in being seen, being judged, being aware of the moment.”

Nicole Eisenman has made narrative drawings, paintings, and installations with an irreverent sense of humor since the early 1990s. She was originally dubbed a “bad-girl” painter for her emotionally charged content, which often included feminist inspired takes on female subjects. She combines historical elements of painting—from Renaissance to modern art—with appeals to popular culture, including pornography, horror films, and punk music. Her complex narratives always involve the human figure, whether alone or in a crowd, to evoke feelings of anxiety, fear, and isolation.


On loan to Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago for Nicole Eisenman: What Happened


Contemporary Art


Nicole Eisenman


The Drawing Class


United States (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil and charcoal on canvas


165.1 × 208.2 cm (65 × 82 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Society for Contemporary Art

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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