Today we take a quick look at ten contemporary urban artists painting womenthe everlasting subject that has intrigued artists since the time they lived in caves. Some of them explore this subject exclusively, while others only visit it occasionally. When we look at their work, it is clear that the common subject is the only thing they share.
The nude figure is a tradition in Western artand has been used to express ideals of male and female beauty and other human qualities. It was a central preoccupation of Ancient Greek artand after a semi-dormant period in the Middle Ages returned to a central position in Western art with the Renaissance. Athletes, dancers, and warriors are depicted to express human energy and life, and nudes in various poses may express basic or complex emotions such as pathos.
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No one has ever painted naked women as gorgeously as Titian did. His ravishing Venus is a lover laying her beauty bare, and the recipient of her optical largesse is anyone who happens to stand in front of this painting in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy. Titian creates with mind-boggling skill the lavish presence of this nude: the rapture of her carnal glory. There's something divine about such beauty.
The topic of sexuality in art history can be approached in a variety of ways but perhaps the most valuable one in terms of a foundational topic for a survey art history lecture is the convention of female nudity in art. Tracing this convention through the history of art will enable you to cover issues of sexuality, gender, and power with your class. Additionally, you can spend time looking at the ways in which modern and contemporary artists have responded to the trope of female nudity in order to break with past conventions, and the ways in which feminist and queer artists and artists of color have developed new approaches to this tradition from a position of marginality.
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Nude art has been represented in paintings and statues since prehistory. From a liberal view in the Classical period to a conservative outlook in the Middle Ages, as well as more ups and downs in the Renaissance and Victorian eras. We now exist in an age in which body related tabus seem to be less of an issue to a Western audience, as the media is saturated with sexual and beautified imagery.
Western art has always been inherently and inevitably phallocentric, as inscribed within a social, political and linguistic structure that favours the male as subject, and relegates the female to object. Until the 19th century, men —in various forms of art, but especially in painting— depicted women in idealised forms, rendering their beauty as an object of the excited male gaze. Within this context, paintings of naked women were accepted as far as the female subjects on the canvas were either represented with a godlike appearance or located within a mythological framework, since explicit eroticism was culturally censored. Paintings of female nudes, in this context, express feelings of fear and loathing.
Paintings of nude standing females women, girls created in the 19th century. Frequent theme of the Academic art. From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.