Art says beefy thighs OK

Gaston Lachaise, Torso c.1912, on display at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

She is not the shape a lot of people have come to idealise. Maybe she sometimes wonders if her hips are too big; someone once said she has beefy thighs. But right now she is feeling confident – you can see it in the way she stands: shoulders back, head up (we imagine). She is actually quite fit; it’s not that she doesn’t care about what she eats; it is the right shape for her.

Feeling good about the way you look is not easy. We have seen so many images of attractive people who are impossibly perfect. They drag us down a lot.

The sculptor opens our eyes to beauty when it comes in a slightly unfamiliar guise. He is not saying that no one ever has to watch their weight, or that exercise is a waste of time. But he’s broadening our categories of the attractive in a useful way.

Prejudice often gets in the way of appreciating what is really good. This kind of body type looks great and a work of art in a Melbourne gallery is quietly helping people to recognise the fact.