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Contents

INTRODUCTION

The Recycled Nude

ONE

The Nude: Its Life, Death and Resurrection

TWO

Body Art: The Journey into Nakedness

THREE

The Changing Room: Female Perspectives

FOUR

Forgive Me, I’m a Painter

FIVE

The Naked Portrait

SIX

After Rodin, Is There

Anything Left To Say?

SEVEN

Going to Extremes

NOTES

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

CREDITS

INDEX

This sales blad contains uncorrected proofs of

sample pages in miniature. The full specifi cation

for the book itself is:

Trimmed page size: 28 x 21.4 cm

Hardback

192 pages with 130 illustrations, 116 in colour

ISBN 978-0-500-23892-9 £28.00

(price subject to change without notice)

Thames & Hudson

181A High Holborn, London WC1V 7QX

www.thamesandhudson.com

FRANCES

BORZELLO

The Naked Nude

FRANCES BORZELLO

The

Naked

Nude


Jemima Stehli, Strip, 2001, set of ten chromogenic photographs mounted

on aluminium. In the photographic Strip series, Stehli gradually removes her

clothes in front of five men from the art world (representing the male gaze).

She asked each to use a cable shutter-release to photograph her during her

striptease. Her aim was to record the response of a male caught in a position

of some vulnerability as he is looked at while he looks.

50 Body Art: The Journey into Nakedness

51

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62

The Changing Room: Female Perspectives

LEFT Paula Modersohn-

Becker, Self-Portrait, 1906,

oil on card. Surely art’s first

naked, pregnant self-portrait,

Modersohn-Becker’s painting

was made, according to its

inscription, on the occasion of

her sixth wedding anniversary.

As far as is known, she was

not pregnant when she

painted it, which suggests

that this is a work of personal

exploration as she wonders

about the effect of pregnancy

on her life.

OPPOSITE Lotte Laserstein,

Morning Toilette, 1930, oil on

panel. The large feet, sensible

hair cut and sturdy legs of

Laserstein’s depiction of her

model washing suggest

strength and purpose and are

far from the passive female

body beloved of male artists

of the past.

Naked_Nudes_Blad_spreads.indd 62-63 21/02/2012 12:59

masculine imaginings of a frightened girl by stressing her gawky subject’s difference

from the younger adolescents that form the frieze behind her. By extending the young

girl’s arms and legs, the artist emphasizes the idea of a body that runs slightly ahead of

its owner. There is less stress on sexuality than in the Munch and more on the strange

new body changes, which must surely stem from a female insider’s point of view.

It has been assumed that in the absence of any opportunity to study the life

model, something men took for granted, women in the past who were serious about

their art would try to learn about the body from drawing themselves without their

clothes on. Gwen John did several watercolours and drawings of herself naked in

her Paris apartment. To make money to support herself in Paris, she modelled, and

one of the people she modelled for was Auguste Rodin. The inevitable happened but

unfortunately, as also tends to happen, her passion outlasted his. A watercolour of

herself sitting on a bed naked, painted about 1908–9, is one of a fascinating group of

LEFT Edvard Munch,

Puberty, 1894–5, oil on

canvas.

FAR LEFT Elena Luksch-

Makowsky, Adolescentia,

1903, oil on canvas.

Munch seems to emphasize

the sexual terrors of the young

girl sitting self-protectively on

the bed. In contrast, Elena

Luksch-Makowsky

concentrates on the physical

gawkiness of the young

woman’s arms and legs,

which seem to be growing

rapidly away from her.

Gwen John, Self-Portrait

Sitting Naked on Her Bed,

c. 1908–9, gouache and

pencil on paper. Gwen John’s

watercolours and drawings of

herself reveal her confidence

in the body that had been

brought to life by her lover,

the sculptor Rodin.

60 The Changing Room: Female Perspectives

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bodily appearance and the historical one of idealization.’ However, his way of doing so

is extremely singular for an artist. He has no desire for the casts of his body to carry any

aesthetic value or interest in their own right. Instead, their value lies in the uses to which

he puts them. ‘I think of the work as a catalyst or resonator whose value or significance is

not intrinsic but is generated in relation to the viewer and to its context.’ 5

Since 1997 Gormley has been populating a series of landscapes with iron casts

of his own body. Among the most ambitious of Gormley’s sited sculptures is Horizon

Field, situated high in the Austrian Alps and composed of a hundred iron bodies spread

over seven valleys with all of the sculptures positioned at a height of 2,039 metres to

create an artistic field that makes its own horizon. He says such works represent his

attempts to ask a simple question in material terms: Where does the human being fit

in the scheme of things? ‘Sculpture doesn’t need a roof or a label. You don’t need to

pass over the threshold of an institution in order to experience something that engages

your imagination and, with luck, your body. When placed in the outdoors in rain and

sunshine, in summer and winter, in daylight and moonlight, sculpture, in my view,

begins to live and its silence becomes a potent marker in time and space. People may

well ask “What the hell is this thing doing here?” and the work returns that question and

it responds reflexively “What the hell are you doing here?”.’ 6

Despite Gormley’s denial of the usefulness of the art of the past, it is hard to

divorce his nudes from it, even if just as a point of comparison. There is something of

Ron Mueck, Dead Dad,

1996–7, mixed media.

Everything about this work

operates in opposition to the

notion of the ideal nude.

Instead of generalized

perfection, Mueck

reproduces every wrinkle, hair

and vein in his detailed

portrait of his father’s body.

the Renaissance about his goal of using his body as a kind of surrogate for us to view

the world. Is that so very different from the miraculous one-point perspective of

the 15th century, which offered an optimum spot from which the viewer could see a

painting in its full three-dimensional glory? A journalist once put this link to humanity

and to the sculptural tradition in a less elevated manner: ‘Some lonely art lovers have

probably spent more time scrutinizing his rough-cast bottoms than they have a living

human’s. In the world of sculpture only Michelangelo’s David and the Venus de Milo

are more gawped at.’ 7 In 2011 Gormley faced up to his sculptural heritage – literally.

Invited to show at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, he ‘deplinthed’ a group of classical

sculptures by sinking them into a false floor, enabling visitors to come face to face with

these personified icons of human character at its best. For the adjoining courtyard, he

constructed a group of pixelated, blocky humanoids, crumbling and wavering in the

confusions caused by life today. His aim was to present a modern dystopian contrast to

the classical confidence of the perfect body.

Hyperrealism and change of scale are the tools of Australian sculptor Ron

Mueck, who has taken great pains to leave behind the traditional materials of sculpture

and to choose as subjects any body other than the ideal. His sculptures seem closer

to the art of making waxworks than to the bronzes and marbles of high art. Mueck is

Ron Mueck, Mother and

Child, 2001, mixed media.

A first in the history of art is

this larger-than-life sculpture

of a mother and newborn

child with attached umbilical

cord. Its replacement of the

classical ideal of exterior

perfection with the interior

functions of the body makes

this indisputably a nude for

our time.

148 After Rodin, Is There Anything Left to Say?

149

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