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The Naked Truth Since ink was first put to paper and brush to canvas, the nude has been one of the most fascinating studies in artists’ repertoires. Humans, so removed from our natural habitat and so entrenched in societal expectations of modesty and clothing, have come to imagine our naked selves as sometimes exotic, erotic and sometimes even alien, despite the fact that we all see our naked selves every day…
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Download file to see previous pages It is innocent, being the most natural form of human existence or it could be sinful, drawing the viewer into thoughts of lust or temptation. The nude is naked, it is ornate, it is weak, it is powerful, it is simple, yet incredibly complex; in short, it encompasses almost any contradictory pairing one could imagine. We hope you enjoy this examination of five artists’ use of nudity to play with the themes of confidence, power, objectification, complexity, gaze, morality and sexuality. This work, a pencil on paper by the French Henri Matesse, is possibly the most classical of all the works chosen for this exhibition. It is a classical life drawing, a rought sketch of a woman on a pedestal clearly posing for the drawing session, and is done in a rough, sketch like fashion with simple shading and a sense of constant movement throughout. This piece can almost serve as a foil for the rest of the exhibition, by giving a very classically imagined life drawing for other pieces to work with or against. Just because this piece is classical, however, does not mean that it is simple. It demonstrates one of the most innate tensions to depicting the nude in art, the balance between objectification and personification; the struggle between the subject being a beautiful object of art while simultaneously a human. This work relates that tension to the audience by putting the subject on a pedestal, a pedestal that almost looks like a serving platter for food. This invokes the idea of the subject simply existing for one’s viewing pleasure, an impression further reinforced by the ornament worn around the subject’s neck. How different is this person on a wall from a jewel on a neck? Is it there simply for one to view and enjoy or does it have value in and of itself? Furthermore, Matesse’s shyness about depicting classic Western private parts, nipples and vulva, give this person a mannequin appearance, putting a final weight to offset the human/object balance. The next piece, a wash by the British artist Henry Moore, works with Matesse’s piece to form a backdrop to the rest of the works in the exhibit. Whereas Matesse’s works as a classical foil, this almost serves as an overview, visually illustrating and giving an overview of many of the tensions that other works will play with in more depth. Viewers will almost be able to slot other pieces by other artists mentally into the spectrum Moore creates. This work outlines some of the vast number of tensions inherent in work with nude figures. The first and probably most obvious is the weakness/power tension displayed by the top left and bottom right figure, respectively. The top left figure, feebly attempting to hide her nakedness from the viewer, demonstrates the feeling of utter powerlessness and shame that can be associated with nudity, while the bottom right figure proudly displays itself with a disdainful eye towards the viewer. Countering both points is the bottom figure second from right, choosing to hide private parts she does not wish the world to see while defiantly and powerfully gazing outwards. This work also plays with the personification/objectification dynamic inherently integrated into nude works though facial details. These details range from the assortment of dots, almost alien, on the bottom left figure, implying heavy objectification, through the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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