What does nudity in art mean? Does it always allude to a sensual motive or do artists intend to convey something more? Through the medium of painting do people view a representation of the naked body as artistic or sexual?

These are some questions that a lot of viewers toggle with when they encounter art works of nudity. Interestingly, nude art has always been a prevalent facet of art. It was common as religious art for about a century, before the renaissance period in the form of Greek sculptures. The nude arts portrayed both men and women and these sculptures were pretty popular to encounter as they were found almost everywhere at the time: temples, court houses, palaces, gardens and other public places of importance. Some scholars are of the thought that more women than men have been captured in nude art, mainly for the purpose of objectification.

The Elgin Marbles, The British Museum, London, UK

Nonetheless, here are some reason why artists are drawn to nude expressions:

  • The bare body gives the artist more room to express emotions like tension, anger, power, desperation and also it allows for the expression of movement. The taunt muscles, bulging veins, contorted torso, elegant legs, ribbed stomach gave the sculptures a sense of movement. One of the most famous sculptures in history, is one depicting a Greek mythological character, Laocoon and his sons called the Laocoon Group. In this work, the sculptor uses the bare body to show the struggle of the father and the sons with a serpent. The bare bodies display the struggle between agony, fear and anger.

The Laocoon Group, Vatican Museums

  • Mastering how to convey the human body is seen by a lot of viewers as the truest artistic skill and the vehicle for a wide range of expression. Unlike painting a clothed figure, a nude image requires mastery of painting and even drawing as well to highlight the best features of the body.

 

  • Nudity was also used to portray gods and goddesses from mythology to bring out the virtues of valor, bravery, courage in the case of male nudes and the qualities of beauty, coyness and fertility in case of female nudes. Over the years, things have changed after the rise of Christianity.

Leon Francois Comerre, ‘Golden Rain’

  • Artists also use nudity for shock value. In this sense, it can act as a strong means of attraction or passing an important message or even as banal as increasing the artist’s publicity.

 

In History works like ‘Venus of Urbino’ by Titian, Ingres’s sensual Odalisque, and Donatello’s David, have stirred mixed emotions but more than anything, sparked curiosity, which is what is most needed to experience art.

Titian, ‘Venus of Urbino’

Interested in nude art or wondering what the contemporary trend in nude art looks like? Check out works by Segun Adejumo, Obi Chigozie, Abisola Gbadamosi, Elizabeth Ekpetorson, Oladotun Abiola here.

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