The Nude in Art

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The Nude in Art History Throughout art history, artists, from “Michelangelo and Titian in the Renaissance, to Monet, Baladon and Degas in the nineteenth century, to Balthus, Lucian Freud…and Robert Mapplethorpe in the twentieth century, have depicted nudes (“The Nude in Art”). Traditionally, the history of the nude in art starts with the “heroic male of Greek art,” during the classical period (Graves). As the collection of statues at practically any art museum indicates, the male nude was the norm in Greek art (Binns). Nudity was “a costume used by artists to depict various roles of men, as Greek men did not go about their daily tasks in the nude. Jeffrey Hurwit, historian of ancient art at the University of Oregon, points out that while Greek war heroes are often depicted as nude, “in combat nakedness was suicidal” (Binns). However, while scholarship on the nude in art history has historically focused on Greece, Ellen Graves, associated lecturer in the arts at the Open University in Scotland, argues that this history goes back much further, to 25,000 BC and a “tiny statuette” known as the Willendorf Venus, which depicts a naked, “corpulent female” (Graves). This statuette was undoubtedly a fertility symbol, as fertility symbols of this nature are prevalent in Indian temple art that dates from the first century BC (Graves). Also, in early depictions of the nude males, such as those appearing in cave paintings, and early Egyptian and Mesopotamian art also has fertility connotations (“The Nude…History”). However, in Greek art, the nude takes on a different function, as Greek art memorialized “real people,” as well as gods and “godlike mythical heroes” (Graves). Graves point out that nudes, with few exceptions, are a phenomenon of Western art and that the nude male form and the nude female form have been treated very different across the centuries. A double

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