Tom Kristensen, born 1962, is a young artist from Australia who works in the tradition of Japanese woodblock printmaking. On this page, he writes about his latest print "Nude Test No. 2 Brigitte Bardot".
First Publication: August 2008
Latest Update: June 2013
Here is the original text written by Tom Kristensen. Text and images are copyright protected and may not be used or distributed for other than private use without the prior consignment of the author/artist.
In 1956 the French actress Brigitte Bardot became an international star with her appearance in the film And God Created Woman. Publicity for the film featured Bardot wearing a polka-dotted bikini.
This was her 18th film and it was not the first time she had appeared on screen wearing the skimpy two-piece swimsuit, but the film was presented as a breakthrough. European filmmakers were able to trump the Hollywood directors who were still working under the Hay's code, which set strict limits on the depiction of sexuality.
Bardot and her itsy-bitsy bikini became symbolic of the sexual sophistication of European culture.
The Greeks invented the original bikini; athletes are seen running around in brief two-piece costumes on pottery urns dated from 1400 BC. Roman mosaics also show sporty women wearing bikinis.
The modern bikini can be traced back to the rapidly changing fashion of swimwear in the early 20th century. Industrialisation and the spread of rail travel meant that increasing numbers of holidaymakers were able to spend time congregating at the beach for sunshine and swimming.
Victorian style beachwear, which covered a woman's body from neck to ankle was made from heavy fabric and was unsuited to immersion. The practical considerations of swimming led to a reduction of these garments designed purely for the sake of modesty. Emancipated women were determined to swim and to be seen swimming.
The daring form-fitting one-piece swimsuit that led to the arrest of celebrity swimmer Annette Kellerman on a Boston beach in 1907 was widely adopted by 1910.At the 1913 Olympics there was a need for less fabric to help the new event of women swimming in competition. The streamlined style of swimwear evolved quickly and by the 1930s the Germans were setting the fashion trend with sleek two-piece bathing suits that exposed the stomach.
By the early 1940s a precursor to the bikini had been named the Atome for its tiny size. In July 1946 the so-called Bikini was unveiled by a pair of Frenchmen, one an engineer the other a fashion designer.
The name bikini was adopted four days after Operation Crossroad, the US atomic weapons tests carried out on the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The excitement of the explosions would be mirrored by the reception of the new sexy swimwear. The inventors claimed to have "split the Atome" to make it smaller.
Operation Crossroad was designed to test the effects of nuclear weapons on ships, equipment and materials. A target fleet of 90 vessels was assembled in the Bikini lagoon including surrendered ships from the German and Japanese navies.
Watching the explosions were another 150 ships with 42000 men participating in the tests. The native population of Bikini Island were deported for the duration of the tests.
The plume of water pictured in this print followed an underwater detonation of a 21-killoton nuclear weapon named Baker. The blast sank eight ships and contaminated most of the fleet.
The radioactive debris of the ships and the lagoon floor were later piled on top of the blast crater and formed into a hill and capped with a concrete apron.
The Bikini Islanders were paid a small settlement and left to deal with the consequences.
Brigitte Bardot retired from the film industry in the 1970s and put her energies into the protection of animal rights.
Edited by Dieter Wanczura
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