Even in the earliest points in history, nudity of both men and women were already one of the primary subjects of artists. Practically every civilization was able to produce artists that gave the world their own versions of art in sexually explicit imagery. Across several media – sculpture, painting, photography, etc. – nudity in art has depicted the social standards of the era generally in terms of defining beauty, establishing morals and principles, and displaying of religious beliefs.
Gender. It was common in the ancient times to see both male and female nude artworks, especially in ancient Greece. Illustrations of the naked body were often used in symbolic ways. Take for example the Roman Goddess Venus. She was most often the subject of nude artworks through sculpture and paintings. Venus was the center of several religious festivals in Rome.
The goddess represented beauty, sex, love, fertility, and prosperity. In general, it can be said that female nude artworks were most known for the sense of sexuality it gives to the general audience. On the other hand, for much of art history, nude men took on the aggressive and active roles – athletes, warriors, winners, or martyrs – compared to the more passive depiction of nude women.
One famous example is the bronze sculpture David by Donatello. It was the first unsupported standing work showing the hero David stepping on Goliath’s head after he defeated the giant. The sexuality of a nude male artwork was not given much attention as people focused more on the composition and form of the piece. The origin of the male nude is the perfect human athlete, while the female nude traces its roots to the embodiment of procreation.
Era. Through the passing of time, nude artworks have evolved in purpose, interpretation, and general acceptance.
Ancient times – The Beginnings. It’s possible to trace the relevance of nudity in art to the appreciation of the ancient Greeks for the human body, predominantly the male, during athletic competitions held at their religious festivals. It was common for the Greek athletes to compete in nude as it was considered the representation of everything considered best in all of humanity. This was when artists began to make artworks (sculptures, mostly) of naked athletes celebrating beauty in terms of glory, might, and excellence. The female nude can be traced back to times where people would worship goddesses and fertility deities.
Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The spread of Christianity during the middle ages affected the perception to artworks with nudity as the subject. Brought about by the conservatism and holy treatment of the religion to the human body, the appearances of nude in art began to dwindle. Then came Renaissance that gave birth to the most famous artists and literary men and women. It was considered as the rebirth of art and literature. The Renaissance era brought nude artworks back in the limelight. Most of the famous nude art pieces – such as David by Michelangelo – were made in this period.
Baroque and Later Art. Since the Renaissance period, the nude remained an important focus of art. Art academies of the period put more emphasis in developing the skills of the young artists in drawing, sculpting, or painting nude pieces. The late 19th century brought challenges to nude as a form of art when ideals, virtues, and morals were thrown into the field as opposition to this form of art.
Media. Since then until today, there are different methods of expressing nudity in art.
Painting. The ideal medium for nude painting, historically, was oil paint. The surface becomes more like a skin once paint is blended and the layered.
Sculpture. The durable material of a sculpture made it possible for artworks of the past to make it until today. In some parts of the world, such as South Asia and India, it has been a tradition to adorn female nude sculptures with bracelets, charms, and other accessories.
Drawing. Some artists observe a live model and then create art – this known as live drawing. If line, form, and composition are the focus instead of the subject person, it is known as figure drawing.
Photography. Ever since the invention of cameras in the 19th century, nudity has almost immediately became a subject of photography.
Video Games: Since Nintendo came to the seen, arts in video games has revolutionized. Along with the internet, nudity in video games gradually rose. For an example of how nudity is portrayed in art form in video games can be found on the sex games website Sex Games Now. An example of porn games portraying art can be found on Free Porn Games. These sex games and porn games site show high-end nudity in computer graphic arts.
New Media. The late 20th century has given artists several new media they can make use of in creating artworks. Some examples are video art, performances, and installations.
The artist and the art. In every category, there are always those who stand out. Here are some:
- Rembrandt. Most famous work is Bathsheba with King David’s Letter, an oil in canvas painting.
- Jan van Eyck. Known for Figure of Eve: the Ghent Altarpiece in oil on wood.
- Antonio Canova. Creator of the well-known The Graces, made of marble.
- Benvenuto Cellini. He made the bronze sculpture Perseus with the head of Medusa.
- Bertel Thorvaldsen. Jason with the Golden Fleece was his most famous creation. It was a marble sculpture.
In this day and age, those nude art pieces mentioned above cost a fortune. This shows how much people give value and appreciate nude in art. There is still opposition, especially in the conservative and religious parts of the world, but this has not hindered the beauty in all forms people across all walks of life see in nudity as an art.