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An Homage to Nude Human Body

  • Tom Wesselmann - Shiny Nude
August 22, 2019
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

Ever since the humans started expressing themselves through art, the nude became an omnipresent form of presentation of the human body. From the ancient cults celebrating Mother Earth, over Classical Greek art, over sacral art of the Medieval period, to the Renaissance, when it became a central point in the basic artistic training, the nude expressed various ideas concerning beauty, vitality, energy, and life.

The 20th century brought a renewed perception of the body in the Western world, so the genre itself changed especially with the appearance of the early avant-garde movements such as Futurism and Cubism. Naturally, after WW II, the nude was not that popular due to huge atrocities and the general disbelief in humanity. Various social and scientific shifts affected the way artists perceived the nude, so from the 1960s onwards there is an increasing number of works exploring the taboo subjects such as sexuality, race, motherhood, aging, etc.

To bring you closer to the various 20th-century visions of the nude, we selected nine exceptional artworks by some of the best-known artists.

Featured image: Tom Wesselmann – Shiny Nude. All images courtesy of their respective galleries.

  • Robert Mapplethorpe - Felix Brown

Robert Mapplethorpe - Felix Brown

The first artwork on our top list was made by a famous American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The oeuvre of this notable art figure and leading proponent of 1980s New York art scene has been and still is considered controversial due to the explicit depictions of male nudes and queer sexuality. By carefully staging his sitters and confronting them proud, bold and bare naked to the camera, Mapplethorpe managed if not to dissect then to rather accentuate and celebrate the thing common for all sexual beings and that is desire.

This particular photograph is a portrait of Felix Brown, a comic, singer, model, and performer at the National Black Theatre in Harlem who was invited by Mapplethorpe to pose for his Black Book.

See more info about the work here.

  • Stephen Pace - Grey Nude

Stephen Pace - Grey Nude (65-13)

Stephen Pace was an established American artist whose practice shows the influence of Abstract expressionist and figurative art. Although he grew up in a humble countryside surrounding, he managed to obtain formal training while in his teens. Throughout his career, Pace experimented formally with the classical genres such as landscape and still lifes while exploring the tendencies supported by Abstract Expressionism. Later on, the artist focused more on representational painting.

This painting, simply titled Grey Nude, was made by Stephen Pace in 1965 and it represents the combination of abstraction and figuration.

See more info about the work here.

  • Pablo Picasso - Deux Hommes Sculptes – Three Nude Man Standing

Pablo Picasso - Deux Hommes Sculptes – Three Nude Man Standing

Next up is probably the most celebrated artist ever, the grand-master of Modernism – Pablo Picasso. His formative role in founding and promoting Cubism, numerous periods he passed through, and the dominating motifs such as the bull and women (Picasso was obsessed with his partners), make him a distinct figure even outside the art world. Picasso was unstoppable creator, thirsty for new challenges, so it is not unusual that his practice was multidisciplinary.

The iconic artist is best known for his Cubist paintings such as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon or Guernica, however, his talent and craftsmanship was also expressed in a less pretentious manner which is nicely illustrated with Three Nude Man Standing from 1933 inspired by the Antiquity.

See more info about the work here.

  • Tom Wesselmann - Shiny Nude

Tom Wesselmann - Shiny Nude

Tom Wesselmann was one of the leading proponents of American Pop Art in the 1960s, whose championing aesthetic based on the interpretation and translation of classical genres such as still life, nude and landscape quickly rose to fame. This notable artist is best known for assemblages and collages saturated with everyday objects and advertising features. Wesselman was not very fond of being described as a Pop artist, and he admired the works of Abstract Expressionists Motherwell and de Kooning.

The Shiny Nude is yet another painting made by this prolific artist featuring the female features, such as nudes, lips and feet, which are omnipresent in his oeuvre.

See more info about the work here.

  • Andy Warhol - Sex Part

Andy Warhol - Sex Part

Next artwork on our list was made by no other than the Prince of Pop Art himself – Andy Warhol. Silkscreens made him immensely famous, however, his multidisciplinary and experimental approach led him elsewhere, so Warhol’s legacy gathers Polaroids, films, installation pieces, an influential Interview magazine, a band Velvet Underground, the invention of Superstars, and his studio The Factory. Warhol understood the increasing shift in understanding the media, and he constantly flirted with the art market while staying devoted to his non-commercial underground films and charms of the subculture which surrounded him.

This subversive image is a Polaroid depicting the explicitly sexual nude of an Afro American man and it perfectly illustrates the liberated desire of gay men in a post-Stonewall and pre AIDS time.

See more info about the work here.

  • Rainer Lagemann - Tanz

Rainer Lagemann - Tanz (Dance)

Rainer Lagemann is a German metal sculptor who devotedly explores the human body by focusing on its movement. His works are at the same time concrete and ethereal and show Lagemann’s interest in experimenting with classical forms. They are made of hollow steel squares with the four corners representing the spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional dimensions of a human being.

The piece Tanz (Dance) is a painted steel sculpture which illustrates the stated above.

See more info about the work here.

  • Rene Magritte - La Magie Noire

Rene Magritte - La Magie Noire

This work was made by a celebrated Belgian Surrealist master Rene Magritte. By appropriating pipes, bowler hats, and rocks, this celebrated artist created an unprecedented and quite mysterious aesthetic aimed to puzzle, dazzle, and tackle the matter of human perception. Although simple, clear, and to a certain extent realistic, Magritte’s compositions are profoundly unsettling and provoking leaving the beholder questioning the origin of things and reason.

La Magie Noire or Black Magic is a dreamy and contemplative lithograph featuring female nude half-covered with a blue sky, a motif typical for Magritte.

See more info about the work here.

  • Anthony Lister - Female nude bronze

Anthony Lister - Female nude bronze

The following artwork was produced by an Australian graffiti artist Anthony Lister who is best known for his combining elements of high and low culture in his work. He was practically a pioneer of the street art movement in his native country so Lister managed to construct a specific aesthetic by embracing the distinct and vibrant figurative style.

Female nude bronze was made by the artist in 2013 and it nicely illustrates his artistic progression and a plunge to yet another media.

See more info about the work here.

  • Xavier Veilhan - Alice

Xavier Veilhan - Alice

The last on our top list is the artwork made by a French artist Xavier Veilhan whose entire body of work deals with the articulation of the inherited patterns of modernity and classical art. Veilhan expresses himself more or less through all media, however, he is best known for the figurative angular sculptures of human bodies and animals.

Alice is a female nude made by Velihan in 2013.

See more info about the work here.