Pinterest Susanna and the Elders by Artemisia Gentileschi c A brief detour into traditional African art — where the naked body is an expression of community or ritual — demonstrates the fetishistic weirdness of this western tradition, the disconnect between art and real life. And what about the bodies of the elderly or anatomical models. Are they nude?
Naked positions – Mary Beard’s Shock of the Nude, reviewed
"Life drawing of a male nude with a cane" (Adolphe Valette… | Flickr
I accept that our culture rates self-involvement increasingly highly. In Shock of the Nude, which explores the idea of the male gaze, she is the star and Michelangelo, Courbet and all the rest of them can go hang. Having planted this notion in our minds, she then offers another thought. Why, then, did she not to mention her director include it? What irks me about this solipsism is that it comes at the expense of facts, context and inquiry. But there are other things at play here, too, none of which she cares to mention.
"Life drawing of a male nude with a cane" (Adolphe Valette), Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester
But how far does the history of Western art, composed for the most part by and for men, really lend itself to subversive interpretations? As she points out, all we see is the sexual trunk: head, feet and hands, the thinking and doing parts, are missing. The practice of covering up the genitalia of nudes of both sexes became widespread in 16th-century Europe.
Artist Georgiana Wilson discusses the troubling stereotypes cast by the classical male nude This month, the Royal Academy opened an exhibition of Renaissance nudes that plays up to the current zeitgeist by showing equal numbers of naked males and females. In any large European collection of figurative paintings, the Uffizi Gallery or the National Gallery for instance, one would expect to find rooms full of female nudes, their reclining, smooth bodies without pubic hair and arranged for the male gaze. Feminist activists and art historians have persisted in challenging this discrepancy in the European art canon through academic debate Griselda Pollock , s , public protest the Guerrilla Girls , s and even physical attack suffragette Mary Richardson in , confronting the female body under the male gaze. Similarly, exhibitions, books and essays focusing on the male nude are rare in comparison to the thousands dealing with the female body in art. Why has the female body been given so much attention whilst the male body remains almost unscrutinised in art-historical discussion?