Who’s Afraid Of The Female Nude?
Paintings of naked women, usually by clothed men, are suddenly sitting very uncomfortably on gallery walls.
The western art canon is in no small part a parade of famous female nudes, from Praxiteles’s Aphrodite of Knidos from the fourth century B.C. to Manet’s 19th-century prostitutes (notably the recumbent, unamused Olympia) to John Currin’s Playboy-meets-Fragonard women — and almost all of them have been made by white male artists. Of course, as art historian Linda Nochlin famously observed, it was difficult for women to paint nudes when historically they weren’t even allowed to attend figure-drawing classes because of the naked people necessarily present.
Part I: “I quit doing the figure. I’m only doing abstract art.”
Male artists wonder whether they can work with the female form, while the world questions what their intentions were in the first place.
To answer this question, I reached out to a number of prominent male artists known for doing just that (as well as for painting nude men). But most of them — including Currin, Carroll Dunham, Jeff Koons, and the young Mexican-American painter Alex Becerra (some of whose nudes are drawn from escort ads) — declined to talk about their work’s relationship to the current social climate.
Part II: “When I was young, the biggest compliment was that you could paint like a man.”
|Tracey Emin, This is life without you – You made me Feel like This, 2018.|
“Since I was 17 or 18, I’ve been making paintings of myself with my legs open, masturbating. But the subject matter is really about being alone, purely alone, and everybody identifies with that, male or female. They’re not meant to be sexy images.
Robin F. Williams
|Naudline Pierre, Descent, 2016.|
Part III: Dueling Gazes