Part 4, Research Point Contextual Research

For this I was to begin to acquaint myself with some the the views many ideas and arguments that surround this historic and at times divisive subject of the Nude.

Reflect and depict how the male and female nude has changed over the centuries.

John Bergers Ways of Seeing was meant to be a good place to start. I looked at all four programs. He made some good points about the way nudes were looked at and what was being nude means rather than being naked.He talked about the nudes of European paintings and  how women are seen. He questions what is the nude, and feel being naked is when you are unclothed and yourself, to be a nude you have to be seen as an object. (Berger, 1972)

So far we can see the nude was depicted as way back as 28,000BC in the form of a little stone figure of a nude woman with no facial features. There is debate as to her being a symbol of fertility, the thing is we will probably never know. there were several figures of nude women found but to date no nude men, so this does give the fertility argument some credence as does her oversized breasts and bottom. She is know as the Venus of Willendorf.

We also  see  the nudes in cave paintings/carvings, both male and female figures are seen here, depicting  human sexuality and fertility.  There is a strong sense that these drawing were much more likely  to do with fertility as the art in itself is not sensual more a mark of a deed or symbol.

There is an excellent video by Tate. Tate unlock art- A Brief History of Art Undressed  and a really good written piece posted by Dundee University by Ellen Graves.

It is interesting to hear about the Greek nudes in ancient times who were a Military might and like to show off their power with their nude statues. Male nudes were based on important  and admired Gods like Apollo, female nudes on Venus the Goddess who represented things like  love, desire and fertility and beauty. Some of the statues are indeed beautiful, I have seen many first hand on travels to Greece, their bodies lacking in human blemishes are carved with a beauty and symmetry that humans would strive to be like. They had the perfect body. Having said all of that beautiful or not there are some statues that would make a lady blush. This depiction of power by the nude continued until Christianity decided that female nudity was  communicating of sin.

This didnt stop the nude being painted, this problem was overcome by painting scenes from the bible like Adam and Eve and their removal from Eden. Bottecelli got around this in 1483-85 by basing his painting Birth of Venus on the beautifully elegant statues of Venus from an old Roman statue of her, which was a copy of the Greek version.

It is odd to think living in this day and age it was the male who was used as models for nude art, not the women and there were rules on how nudes look. The passive sensual nude was acceptable, but the more realistic women with a confrontational look not.

The 17th century although still based on mythology or religion we began to see a more realistic form of nude art, which can be seen in the paintings of Ruebens. His women look like, well women, not the perfect bodies from earlier paintings produced from the early classic statues.–a23736-b206510/peter-paul-rubens-nudes-prints.htm

In the 18th Century it was thought that it had become the norm to paint female nudes from women themselves rather than men and the progression of their use marched on until in the 19th Century we began to see the type of nudes that we have become more accustomed to such as Olympia by Eduoard Manet.

She was more like the pictures we see today a more realistic confrontational nude. In its time it had to be guarded it cause huge reactions from the public, who were not enamored by the way she was portrayed.

Although more explicit I like Degas Nudes, yes they can be explicit but I like the way his nudes are placed in every day situations. Naturally naked such has washing themselves in the bath, drying themselves etc. They feel more like an exploration and celebration of the human body than exploitative.–a44-b206510/edgar-degas-nudes-posters.htm

In Contemporary art we have thrown caution to the wind and nude art is treading a line between art and pornography, I have come across mildly pornographic art showing masturbation and nude art such as Jenny Savilles that exaggerate  the grotesque, she paints nudes in a forms of mutilation and exaggeration that shock and frankly I find not very nice to look at. Having said that she gets her emotions into her work and I can see why she is famous in her field.

I think even today John Bergers definition of a nude is accurate. I also feel he has a point in the nude female is for the pleasure of man. I am not so sure that can be applied to the nude man in the same way.

Berger, J. (1972). John Bergers Ways of Seeing. Retrieved from Youtube: Last accessed 1st Jun 2016

Ellen Graves. (2003). Life Study: The Nude in Art – a Brief History. Available: Last accessed 3rd Jun 2016.

Tate. (2014). A Brief History of Art Undressed. Available: Last accessed 3rd Jun 2016.

Whittaker, A. (date not known). Prehistoric Cave Art. Retrieved from Ancient Wisdom:

Zucker, D. B. (2016, June 1). Botticelli Birth of Venus. Retrieved from Khan Academy:

Zygmont, D. B. (Date Unknown). Khan Academy, Prehistoric Art in Europe and West Asia. Retrieved from Khan Academy:

In the 18th century a definition of the nude was introduced to stop artist breaking any religious law


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