"Nude in art is not the same as erotic art"

Danny Bree, Owner Gallerease Gallerease
Danny Bree
Owner Gallerease
16 Articles5 Curated artworks

"Nude in art is not the same as erotic art or pornography". These were the words of the famous Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei when he was accused and arrested by the Chinese regime in Bejing. This was only 9 years ago in 2011 for making nude photography displaying a number nude males and females. He has become a symbol of the struggle for human rights in China using the soft power of art. But it hasnot been very long ago that representation of a nude humans was also controversial in the European art culture for centuries. 

 

 Self Portrait Ai Weiwei at young age 

 

Nude in prehistoric times

Approximately 30.0000 years ago in Europe, humans made sculptures which are traditionally referred to in archaeology as "Venus figurines". It is widely believed that depictions of nude women with exaggerated sexual features represented an early fertility fetish, perhaps of a mother goddess. Although the name Venus is a little bit confusing because it is predating the real mythological figure of Venus many thousands of years earlier. The prehistorical images of women give a good reflection of the contemporary taste, morale and religious values ​​of that society. 

 

 

Venus of Willendorf, Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria

 

Beauty of the male nude

Nudity also played a major role in Greek sculpture. The Greeks greatly admired the beauty of the human body and therefore believed that it should be depicted in its purest form; the so-called “heroic” male nude. The reason for especially depicting naked men was because women were seen as imperfect. And when women were depicted they were simply covered with clothes. That the Greeks were only concerned with the beauty of the body and not with the sexuality can concluded by the relatively small genitals that were displayed. 

 

The Artemision Bronze, National Archaeological Museum of Athens 

 

Nude as image of sin in the Middle Ages

With the advent of Christianity, the artistic nude in the early Middle Ages was increasingly pushed back. Only as a symbol of the sinfulness of the weaker sex were images of naked women sometimes allowed. However, most of the time they too were completely or partially covered with robes or undergrowths. Even Adam and Eve, who according to the Bible walked naked in Paradise, were often depicted in Christian art with a fig leaf for their genitals. 

 

Fragment of Tuin der lusten, Jheronimus Bosch, Prado 1480 -1490

 

Nude as mythical figures in the Renaissance

It was only with the arrival of the Renaissance in the fourteenth century that art views on nudity became more tolerant. Artists resorted to the classical works and also took over the heroic nude again. Nevertheless, artists had to make clear in their work that it was a representation of a classical mythical figure to justify the nude. It is for that reason that, for example, many Renaissance paintings depict a naked Venus. 

 

 Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (c. 1484–1486), Florence

 

Nude in 19th and 20th century

It would take until the nineteenth century before the human nude became acceptable again outside this classical environment. Only in the nineteenth century, with the rise of Impressionism in France, more and more artists saw the human nude in itself as an art form. Although both the Academic tradition and Impressionists lost their cultural supremacy at the beginning of the twentieth century, the nude remained. Although transformed by the ideas of modernism. The idealized Venus was often replaced by the woman intimately depicted in private settings.

Nu Couché au coussin Bleu, by Modigliani, 1916

 

The simplified modern forms and almost abstract paintings of Jean MetzingerAmedeo ModiglianiGaston Lachaise and Aristide Maillol recall the original goddesses of fertility more than Greek goddesses.

Nu debout, 1911 by Jean Metzinger

 

In these abstract paintings, the body could be fragmented or dismembered, as in Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon, but there are also abstracted versions of classical themes, such as Henri Matisse's Dancers and Bathers.

Henri Matisse's Dancers and Bathers

 

Are you interested in our own “nude” or  "naakt" collection at Gallerease? Please have look!

 

* The painting in de the header is from Jan Sluijter, Three Female Nudes, Studio 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Written by Danny Bree on 30 Dec 2019, 15:31 Category EducationalTagged Background information, Museums, News