|“Adam and Eve”|
Lucas Cranach the Elder. c. 1509.
(Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie,
Leave it to a sacred artist to open a can of worms.
Sooner or later – probably while trying to overdose your kids on culture at the art museum – you and yours will be exposed to a nude. It will be one of those situations – like a tornado-laden, pyroclastic tsunami – for which you did not prepare. You brought the Band-Aids and stashed the bee sting kit in your purse, but child-size blinders are hard to come by. Sometimes, so are explanations.
This post, however, isn’t so much about answers as it is about some thoughts behind, um, all those behinds.
Like it or not, the subject of the nude has been around since Adam and Eve. It’s the Fall that ruined things and screwed up our perception of God’s greatest creation in its original form. Even sacred depictions of Mr. and Mrs. Adam usually avoid full, frontal nudity. For all children know, the first couple were always up to their armpits in foliage.
|“The Birth of Venus” Sandro Botticelli.|
c. 1486. (Uffizi, Florence)
Some things, however, cannot be forever avoided. That includes the nude. The road of avoidance and unbending prudishness can take an ugly turn, ending up in a dead-end where the female body must be covered, head to toe, and death be dealt to those who think otherwise. On the other hand, we cannot this side of heaven return to our roots, get all hippy-like, and display our endowments willy-nilly.
Context is a major key, and each piece must be judged on its own merits. Paintings of fully-clothed figures, for example, can be more provocative than sans-garment counterparts. Some nude studies are so dispassionate that they barely [pun intended] get noticed. The “form vs. function” idea becomes imperative when discerning viewers ask WHY a piece was produced. The human body is without doubt the crown of The Lord’s creation. Scripture bears this out. It should not be so strange, therefore, that artists find its form so noble a subject when getting “creative.”
“Elle n'a fait que passer” by Luis Treserras.
Clothed or otherwise, the line between
photograph and painting becomes blurred
at the hand of this contemporary,
The human body as an artistic genre is often a natural selection beyond academia. Indeed, some artists produce figurative work throughout entire careers. Figurative realism takes cues from centuries-old classical artists that run the gamut from Cranach and Botticelli to Ingres and Waterhouse. Among contemporary adherents are the likes of Luis Tresarras, Al Saralis, Kamille Corry and Jacob Collins. Each of these artists show that exacting excellence and exquisite beauty do matter in an age when too often an awkward splattering of paint takes center stage, making us cringe with embarrassment.