Monday, April 7, 2014

The Nude in Western Art: Part Four

Note:  This completes my recent four-part tour of the nude as an art form in western culture.

After Renoir and Rodin the artistic nude continued to evolve. The nature of symmetry became a multitude of tastes. With the advent of modernity there was no longer a roughly consistent symmetry for either the feminine or the masculine form. The classic nude remained potentially erotic but the nude as art was also transformed by cubism and other modern influences which objectified the human form in ways often competing with Eros. The nude was fragmented, dissected, abstracted beyond the presentation of a beautiful or sexual physique. 

The representation of the human nude form became far more varied than ever before. In this sense the history of the nude in western art represents an expansion of human expression, freedom, and experience with the physical human form. That it can be so completely abstracted is a reflection of human experience that is as genuine as anything else humanity expresses. 

I do not know if technology has its own Karma but I suspect it does, it definitely has Being, beyond the values that a human "mind" creates as a Lifeworld. The abstracted nude is a representation of something more than mere creative invention. It reflects the "colonization of Lifeworld" (as Art in this specific case) by the culture of technology among other independent and dominating spheres of influence (money, marketing, science, ethics, religion, television, etc.) But that is another post entirely.
Nude by Edvard Munch.  1896.  Munch, of course, is the famous painter of The Scream.  Here we see a shapely nude set against very passionate shades of red.
Georges Braque.  Big Nude. 1907-1908.  This is one of the largest canvased paintings featured in this four-part series on nudes.  Obviously, this is a nude from the perspective of cubism.
Detail from Clyties of the Mist.  Herbert James Draper. 1912. A fine example of a late neo-classicism depiction of the nude inspired by ancient Greek mythology.
Nude Descending a Staircase, a famous modern work by Marcel Duchamp. Also from 1912.  This makes a nice contrast to the previous work.  A total abstraction of the human form.  This work was actually rejected by cubists as being "too futuristic."
Amedeo Modigliani painted many nudes.  Reclining Nude with Folded Arms Behind Her Head is one of my favorites.  Painted in 1917.  Modern yet sensual.
Tamara de Lempicka.  Four Nudes. 1925.  The nude as Art Deco. She was bi-sexual and had a preference for painting lesbian nudes.
The Fascist nude.  Woman Kneeling by Arno Breker. 1942.  A wonderful nude sculpture despite its Nazi origins.  This piece has classical symmetry, rejecting all modernism.  I find it alluring.  
This is anti-Breker.  Nude in an Armchair. 1959. Pablo Picasso. Forging his own innovative way.  Interesting but far from alluring.  Multiple, conflicting symmetries in this work. Picasso painted several nudes in "armchairs".  Click here to see one painted in 1932.
Ema.  1966.  This is Gerhard Richter's version of Duchamp's staircase subject.  It is an excellent example of his "diffused photo-realism" painting style.  Oil on canvas.
Frank Frazetta was a pioneer in fantasy art.  He painted Nude in 1985.  A realistic and erotic pose with wonderful sensitivity to symmetry, shading, and tone.
Roy Lichtenstein.  Two Nudes.  1994.  The nude as Pop Art. Total objectification of the nude form into an advertising type format.
Study for Reclining Nude with Picasso.  2003.  Tom Wesselman. Crayon and paper. Here we have the suggestion of a blond nude laying down and admiring another nude in the style of Picasso.  In this sense it is a rather unique nude.  A nude study depicting a nude in the style of another artist.  Objectification of Art itself, which concludes this brief, four-part tour, and brings us full circle to the point where art is looking at itself.

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