“It being therefore granted, that the Temperament of Man is hot and dry, and that of the Woman cold and moist, we are now to consider, what dispositions these raise in the Soul, and what constitution the whole body receives from them.”
-Marin Cureau de la Chambre, 1665
Hot Dry Men, Cold Wet Women is a show inspired by the now-defunct Theory of the Humors. In part, this theory was used to explain the differences between the sexes. Men were considered to be inherently hot and dry, driving them to a life of action and intellectual pursuit, while women, considered to have a cold and wet humor, were more inclined toward a passive lifestyle.
This theory exacerbated already ingrained societal stereotypes, and invariably left an impression on art history. Men were depicted as warriors, heroes, and gods. ‘Hot’ animals like the horse and lion, as well as fire, frequently stood as visual symbols of man’s heat. In contrast, the most popular depictions of women in history have been in passive, reclining poses. They were often shown near, or enveloped in, sources of water, and cold-blooded animals like the snake were associated with the female humor.
Curated by Cara DeAngelis, Hot Dry Men, Cold Wet Women is inspired by the Humors, and Zirka Filipczack’s book of the same name. The show asserts that although the Humors are now seen as obsolete science, its long-standing hold on Western society and art history has left residual archetypes still held today. As such, this show contains a selection of pieces by contemporary artists whose work, while not directly influenced by the Theory of the Humors, nevertheless displays its influence either overtly or through rebuke.