Saturday, May 30, 2015

Nudity in Western Art

The nude figure is mainly a tradition in Western art, and has been used to express ideals of male and female beauty and other human qualities. It was a central preoccupation of Ancient Greek art and after a semi-dormant period in the Middle Ages returned to a central position in Western art with the Renaissance. Athletes, dancers, and warriors are depicted to express human energy and life, and nudes in various poses may express basic or complex emotions such as pathos. In one sense, a nude is a work of fine art that has as its primary subject the unclothed human body, forming a subject genre of art, in the same way as landscapes and still life. Unclothed figures often also play a part in other types of art, such as history painting, including allegorical and religious art, portraiture, or the decorative arts.
While there is no single definition of fine art, there are certain generally accepted features of most definitions. In the fine arts, the subject is not merely copied from nature, but transformed by the artist into an aesthetic object, usually without significant utilitarian, commercial (advertising, illustration), or purely decorative purposes. There is also a judgment of taste; the fine art nude being part of high culture rather than middle brow or low culture. However, judgments of taste in art are not entirely subjective, but include criteria of skill and craftsmanship in the creation of objects, communication of complex and non-trivial messages, and creativity. Some works accepted as high culture of the past, including much Academic art, are now seen as imitative or sentimental otherwise known as kitsch.
Modern artists have continued to explore classical themes, but also more abstract representations, and movement away from idealization to depict people more individually. During most of the twentieth century, the depiction of human beauty was of little interest to modernists, who were concerned instead with the creation of beauty through formal means. In the contemporary, or Post-modern era, the nude may be seen as passé by many, however there are always artists that continue to find inspiration in the human form.
Naked female figures called Venus figurines are found in very early prehistoric art, and in historical times, similar images represent fertility deities. Representations of gods and goddesses in Babylonian and Ancient Egyptian art are the precursors of the works of Western antiquity. Other significant non-Western traditions of depicting nudes come from India, and Japan, but the nude does not form an important aspect of Chinese art. Temple sculptures and cave paintings, some very explicit, are part of the Hindu tradition of the value of sexuality, and as in many warm climates partial or complete nudity was common in everyday life. Japan had a tradition of mixed communal bathing that existed until recently, and was often portrayed in woodcut prints.
Christian attitudes cast doubt on the value of the human body, and the Christian emphasis on chastity and celibacy further discouraged depictions of nakedness, even in the few surviving Early Medieval works of secular art. Completely unclothed figures are rare in medieval art, the notable exceptions being Adam and Eve and the damned in Last Judgment scenes, and the ideal forms of Greco-Roman nudes are completely lost, transformed into symbols of shame and sin, weakness and defenselessness. This was true not only in Western Europe, but also in Byzantine art. Increasingly, Christ was shown largely naked in scenes of his Passion, especially the Crucifixion, and even when glorified in heaven, to allow him to display the wounds his sufferings had involved. The Nursing Madonna and naked Penitent Mary Magdalene, well as the infant Jesus, whose penis was sometimes emphasized for theological reasons, are other exceptions with elements of nudity in medieval religious art.
In Baroque art, the continuing fascination with classical antiquity influenced artists to renew their approach to the nude, but with more naturalistic, less idealized depictions, perhaps more frequently working from live models. Both genders are represented; the male in the form of heroes such as Hercules and Samson, and female in the form of Venus and the Three Graces. Peter Paul Rubens, who with evident delight painted women of generous figure and radiant flesh, gave his name to the adjective "rubenesque".
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, classical subjects remained popular, along with nudes in historical paintings. In the later nineteenth century, academic painters continued with classical themes, but were challenged by the Impressionists. Eduard Manet shocked the public of his time by painting nude women in contemporary situations in his Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (1863) and Olympia (1865), and Gustave Courbet was criticized for portraying in his Woman with a Parrot a naked prostitute without vestige of goddess or nymph. Edgar Degas painted many nudes of women in ordinary circumstances such as in taking a bath. With the invention of photography and the decline of Victorian prudishness,  there was a general acceptance of artistic nudity except in Fundamentalist Christianity.
Famous Nude Sculptures
 Michelangelo's David
Apollo Belvedere
Famous Nude Paintings
Francisco de Goya's The Naked Maja

 Adam and Eve

Vittorio Carelli's Victory
  Falerio's Moonlit Beauties
Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

Rembrandt's Bathsheba

William Bougueroau's Bilbis

George Wesley Bellows' The Baracade

 Botticelli's Calumny of Apelles (detail)
Nude Photography
Nude Man Standing

Alfred Cheney Johnston's Dorothy Flood with Mirror 

  Robert Mapplethorpe's Dennis with Flowers
  Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe

  Naturalist Male Sitting on the Beach



Sonia and Tracy

Nude Man Sitting


Bruce Weber's The Carlson Twins

Male Nude Pose

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Quotes Concerning Nudity and Being Naked

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.... And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. - The Bible: Genesis 3:7 and Genesis 3:21

It bothers me that in this society, it's OK seeing a guy blow another's head off, but a child seeing Janet Jackson's boob at the Super Bowl is the worst thing that could happen. It's not the end of the world! It's just a breast! - Charlize Theron (South African and American actress, producer, and fashion model)

Being natural and matter-of-fact about nudity prevents your children from developing an attitude of shame or disgust about the human body. If parents are very secretive about their bodies and go to great lengths to prevent their children from ever seeing a buttock or breast, children will wonder what is so unusual, and even alarming, about human nudity. - Lee Salk (child psychologist and author)

I think on-stage nudity is disgusting, shameful and damaging to all things American. But, if I were 22 with a great body, it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic, and a progressive religious experience.- Shelley Winters (actress)

There's something therapeutic about nudity ... Take away the Gucci or Levi's and we're all the same. - Kevin Bacon (actor) 

Clothes are expensive. Save money and become a nudist. Remember: Fashions may change, but naked is always in style.-  Jarod Kintz (writer)

Yes, nudity is an admirable thing indeed.- Jarod Kintz (writer)

What a frail, easily hurt, rather pathetic thing a human body is, naked; somehow a little unfinished, incomplete! - D. H. Lawrence  (writer)

When I was growing up, in our house nudity was defined as the period of time between the shower and your towel. - Amy Cohen (writer)

It’s the invention of clothes, not nature, that made “private parts” private.-  Mokokoma Mokhonoana (philosopher, humanitarian, essayist, cartoonist, social-critic, aphorist,  satirist, allegorist, and social-entrepreneur)

Nudity is the costume of lovers and corpses.- Mason Cooley (writer, aphorist) 

I couldn't believe it. I had broken the law simply by not wearing clothes. - Matt Haig (author)

Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display.... The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress.- John Berger (author)

To see you naked is to recall the Earth.- Federico Garcia Lorca (aka: Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca; poet and dramatist)

I find people better looking without clothes than with clothes. You can go to a gym and go to a steam room and you see someone and think, He's really handsome. Then he puts on his clothes. Some weird pants. A thumb ring. Some weird socks. And it's gone!. - Tom Ford (writer)

How naked go the sometimes nude! - Robert Graves (poet)

Nudity quickly becomes unremarkable when generally practiced. - Martha Nussbaum (writer)
Halfway measures, such as loincloths or fig leaves, remain more titillating than complete nudity.- Paul Ludwig (writer)

A pretty girl, who naked is
is worth a million statues―
E.E. Cummings (poet)

In the nude, all that is not beautiful is obscene. - Robert Bresson (French film director)

Nudity is an essential part of all primitive agricultural rites ... By unveiling the body, and especially the sexual organs, women more effectually represented the goddess of fertility, and more effectually as her representatives, or through their own powers, magically conveyed fertility to the fields. - John Arnott MacCulloch  (Scottish scholar on Celtic religion and mythology)

Being naked approaches being revolutionary; going barefoot is mere populism. - John Updike (author)

Religious strictures are often the source of attitudes toward nudity. Society urges the wearing of clothing partially as a means of controlling the powerful sexual urges that are feared will be released by nudity, causing chaotic behavior. - Patricia Garfield, PhD (authority on dreams) 

Art can never exist without naked beauty display'd. - William Blake (poet) 

I do not want to live with a soul without a body. Nudity is the reflection of innocence.- Kamala Surayya  (Indian poet and writer

Sometimes we sit and wonder in our idle way what in the mischief Eve did when the cold weather came. - Robert Elliott Gonzales ( poet) 

You'll never catch a nudist with his pants down. - David Letterman (comedian and talk-show host)

The beauty of a naked body is felt only by the dressed races. - Fernando Pessoa (author) 

In the contemplation of nudes, we congratulate ourselves upon the beauty of which human beings are capable. They reassure us about ourselves, about Being. We are a little lower than the angels, true, but notice that we can get along without that suspect radiance, equal parts paint and literature, on which the angels lean so heavily. The human body is, or can be, a sufficiency. - Donald Barthelme  (author)

Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee;
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be
To taste whole joys. - John Donne (poet)

Nakedness is uncomely, as well in mind as body, and it addeth no small reverence to men's manners and actions if they be not altogether open. Therefore set it down: That a habit of secrecy is both politic and moral. - Francis Bacon (English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist and author)