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Old 12-08-2011, 01:05 PM
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Use to denote nudity/mature subject matter Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

I was inspired to begin a new thread on the topic of nudes following from a discussion in this thread (towards the bottom of the page, with pioneergirl and stlukesguild) that seemed off-topic there.

The idea here is not just to examine the history of nudes in art, something which certainly goes back thousands of years, but also to see if we can determine exactly what it is that is so fascinating with the subject of the nude body, male of female (well, mostly female).

My favorites cover a large range of epochs, with a leaning towards the drawings of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

I'll wait to post my all-time favorites (noting, there are many), and start with an eclectic group: a works that I just discovered, along with three works by Egon Schiele, and a painting by Leonardo da Vinci:








I'll be back with the Leonardo da Vinci, for some reason it's not uploading.


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Last edited by Coldcreation2 : 12-08-2011 at 01:12 PM.
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Old 12-08-2011, 03:51 PM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

.



Cesare da Sesto (?), after Leonardo da Vinci, c.1515-1520, Leda y el cisne, Temple graso sobre tabla,
112 cm × 86 cm, Piazzale del Museo Borghese, Roma
(The original work by Leonardo is lost)


"Leonardo da Vinci began making studies in 1504 for a painting, apparently never executed, of Leda seated on the ground with her children. In 1508 he painted a different composition of the subject, with a nude standing Leda cuddling the Swan, with the two sets of infant twins, and their huge broken egg-shells. The original of this is lost, probably deliberately destroyed, and was last recorded in the French royal Château de Fontainebleau in 1625 by Cassiano dal Pozzo. However it is known from many copies, of which the earliest are probably the Spiridon Leda, perhaps by a studio assistant and now in the Uffizi,[12] and the one at Wilton House in England." (Source)



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Old 12-08-2011, 10:39 PM
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Use to denote nudity/mature subject matter Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

The idea here is not just to examine the history of nudes in art, something which certainly goes back thousands of years, but also to see if we can determine exactly what it is that is so fascinating with the subject of the nude body, male of female (well, mostly female).

Inspired by similar discussions involving not only the nude but also fashion, I took up reading Sir Kenneth Clark's seminal book, The Nude, once again. Clark defines the NUDE as something more than a mere representation of the naked human body. Indeed, Professor Clark argues that the NUDE is not merely a genre or subject matter, like a landscape, or a still life of fruit, but rather it is also an artistic form with its own formal vocabulary... not unlike the sonnet or the string quartet. The NUDE involves a celebration of the beauty of the human body and in doing so employs certain elements of abstraction... in this it is removed from or different from the mere image of the naked.

The subject matter of the NUDE, Clark argues, is obviously the human body...

"...and the human body is rich in associations, and when it is turned to art these associations are not entirely lost... I is ourselves and arouses memories of all the things we wish to do with ourselves; and first of all we wish to perpetuate ourselves.

This is an aspect of the subject so obvious that I need hardly dwell upon it, and yet some wise men have tried to close their eyes to it. "If the NUDE," says Professor Alexander, "is so treated that it raises in the spectator ideas or desires appropriate to the material subject, it is false art and bad morals."

This high-minded theory is contrary to experience. In the mixture of memories and sensations aroused by Ruben's Andromeda...



or Renoir's Bathers...



(or Sodoma's St. Sebastian...



or Parmagianino's Cupid, for that matter...)



"... are many that are appropriate to the material subject. And since these words of a famous philosopher are often quoted, it is necessary to labor the obvious and say that no NUDE, however abstract, should fail to arouse in the spectator some vestige of erotic feeling... even though it be but the faintest shadow... and if it does not do so it is bad art and false morals. The desire to grasp and be united with another human body is so fundamental a part of our nature that our judgment of pure form is inevitably influenced by it, and one of the difficulties of the NUDE as a subject for art is that these instincts cannot lie hidden... but are dragged into the foreground, where they risk upsetting the unity... from which a work of art derives its independent life. Even so, the amount of erotic content a work of art can hold in solution is very high. The temple sculptures of 10th century India are an undisguised exhalation of physical desire, yet they are great works of art..."

Kant... and many Modernists who followed him... fixated upon the overwhelming seductiveness of eroticism... and especially the beauty of the female body... and it's ability to undermine the (predominantly) male intellect... including his ability to judge art independent of Eros.

The centrality of Eros to the NUDE seems so obvious that it need not even be mentioned. Eros is surely one of the great driving forces behind all art. We need merely consider the wealth of love poems, love songs, stories of unrequited and tragic love, tales of the amorous dalliances of the various gods and goddesses. One even recognizes that in a great deal of the religious art of the West the intent in choosing to paint yet another Adam and Eve, Last Judgment, Bathsheba, Susanna and the Elders, etc... is primarily erotic. The subject matter merely gave the artist leave to paint the naked body he so admired.
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Old 12-09-2011, 09:06 PM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

Considering the limited traffic inspired by the Art History forum I have posted links to the Cafe Guerbois and Figure forums inviting further participants to this discussion.
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Old 12-09-2011, 11:35 PM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

Well, from my point of view, it's pretty simple. I figure that of all the possible real subjects, our brains are most sensitive to the nuances of the human figure. So a portrayed human figure carries more aesthetic and philosophical information than any other subject. (you can always stick an extra limb on a tree, try that on a nude, it usually doesn't work...) That makes for delightful exploration.
Plus it's just fun to do. I do a lot of them, and I really enjoy the time in the studio with models, they tend to be bright and engaging people.
Added -
Degas said "Human beings were made for looking at each other" (or something along those lines). It's one of the tenets of my work.
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Old 12-10-2011, 02:41 AM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

Instead of continuing the discussion with contemporary, highly sexually charged and controversial material, such as the "Made in Heaven" series by Jeff Koons (exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1990), I'd like to post a few examples of the earliest known representations of the human figure.

Indeed, the 'nude' has preoccupied Homo sapiens sapiens for at least the past 40,000-35,000 years, and undoubtedly continues to do so today.





The Venus of Hohle Fels, dated 40,000-35,000 years ago.


The Venus of Hohle Fels (or Venus of Schelklingen), dated to between 35,000 and 40,000 years ago, Upper Paleolithic Venus figurine found in 2008. This is an early Aurignacian work of art, from the very beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, which is associated with the assumed earliest presence of Homo sapiens in Europe (Cro-Magnon). It is the oldest undisputed example of Upper Paleolithic art and figurative prehistoric art in general. (Source)





Venus of Galgenberg made of green serpentine 30,000 years ago.


The Venus of Galgenberg is a Venus figurine of the Aurignacian, dated to ca. 30,000 years ago. Discovered in 1988 close to Stratzing, Austria (not far from the site of the Venus of Willendorf), the figurine measures 7.2*cm in height and weighs 10 g. It is sculptured from green Serpentine rock. (Source)





The Venus of Dolní Věstonice, dated to 29,000–25,000 BCE.


The Venus of Dolní Věstonice, discovered on 13 July 1925 in a layer of ash, broken into two pieces. is a ceramic statuette of a nude female figure dated to 29,000–25,000 BCE (Gravettian industry), found at a Paleolithic site in the Moravian basin south of Brno. This figurine, along with a few others from nearby locations, is the oldest known ceramic in the world, predating the use of fired clay to make pottery. It has a height of 111 millimetres (4.4*in), and a width of 43 millimetres (1.7*in) at its widest point and is made of a clay body fired at a relatively low temperature. (Source)






The Venus of Lespugue was found in 1922 in the Rideaux cave of Lespugue (Haute-Garonne) in the lower Pyrenees. This is a nude female figure of the Gravettian, dated to between 26,000 and 24,000 years ago, carved from mammoth ivory tusk, of which much of the front portion has been restored (after having been damaged during excavation). Of all the steatopygous Venus figurines discovered from the upper Paleolithic, the Venus of Lespugue appears to display the most exaggerated female sexual characteristics, especially the extremely large, pendulous breasts. (Source 1 and Source 2)



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Old 12-10-2011, 10:23 AM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

To me, Velazquez's only surviving nude knocks it out of the ball court in this category, despite the faded colors (the bed sheet was originally mauve). The way the drapery reflects the curviness of the body is a great compositional device:
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Old 12-10-2011, 02:19 PM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trond
To me, Velazquez's only surviving nude knocks it out of the ball court in this category [...]

Yes, that is a nice one, to be sure. There are others though in the category of 'nudes' and in a similar genre arguably just as appealing:




Jean-August Dominique Ingres, 1808, A Sleeping Odalisque, 29.8 x 47.6 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK




Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1814, The Grand Odalisque, oil on canvas, 88.9 cm × 162.56 cm, Louvre, Paris, France




Titian, 1553-1554, Danae, oil on canvas, 120 × 187 cm, Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, Russia






Palma il Vecchio, c 1520, Venus, Oil on canvas, 113 x 186 cm, Gemaldegalarie, Dresden




Alssandro Allori, Venus and cupid, oil on wood, Musee Fabre, Montpellier, France.jpg




Lorenzo Lotto, late 1520s, Venus and Cupid, 92.4 x 111.4 cm, Metropolitam Museum of Art, New York





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Old 12-10-2011, 06:27 PM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

Well, I chuckled when CC first started this thread because this could have veered off into lots of different directions. In fact, it splintered immediately - high minded and mind in the gutter. Was happy to see it moved to Café Guerbois where maybe it could have sparked a lively WC conversation but no…already closed. (What happened?)

I’ll start by saying I don’t have any nudes from the great art history past to share. I’ve looked at many for a long enough time that they barely register (to me) as anything very…interesting or special. Before anybody pounces, I consider myself a figurative painter so I like the human form enough to spend years looking and thinking about it. BUT…I tend to use it as just a “stand-in” for an idea, not necessarily as a “form” I want to explore and render in paint. I’m more interested in “us” rather than “it,” if that makes any sense? When I look at the pictures above, I see lots of smooth, round, curvy, soft bodies. Harmonious skin tones, blemish-free, hairless. Perfectly ideal and ideally, perfect. Seemingly, no objectionable objects here to object to. I’ll give the “old-timers” a break, but once in the “modern” world, the male gaze can make me a little crazy. (Ugh…Schiele and Koons).

So for anybody who would like to teach me a thing or two…she asks oh so innocently and sweetly…

Are there any examples (from this time period) of the female nude form (or male for that matter) that are “ugly or unpleasant-looking,” or was this just not how they artistically viewed their world? Regarding that “high-minded” theory SLG mentioned above….what IS the "formal vocabulary" of the human form and what are the "certain elements of abstraction?"
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Old 12-10-2011, 06:32 PM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
Are there any examples (from this time period) of the female nude form (or male for that matter) that are “ugly or unpleasant-looking,” or was this just not how they artistically viewed their world? Regarding that “high-minded” theory SLG mentioned above….what IS the "formal vocabulary" of the human form and what are the "certain elements of abstraction?"
Sorry, but I am not sure what "this period" refers to. Do you mean anything before modern art? (pre 20th century perhaps?) The Velazquez painting I posted is from about 1640-1650.
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:40 PM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

Here's an ancient Hellenistic (post Alexander) Greek sculpture of Aphrodite and Pan (about 100 B.C.). This one is often dismissed as "garden sculpture", ancient or not (as opposed to cult statues etc), but I think there are several interesting aspects of it that has seldom been mentioned.

First, it is one of very few ORIGINAL (i.e. not Roman copy) Greek Aphrodites that have not been smashed to bits. Second, I think Aphrodite's body is a bit more "realistically" sculpted than most other extant Greek female nudes. Take a close look at her breasts for instance (if you haven't already ). They look almost real.



It is possible that such sculpting was more common than it seems, but I can't think of a single other well-preserved Greco-Roman sculpture looking like this. The "Medici Venus" is closer to the style that has been copied over and over in the later history of art. As an art history note: the female nude became popularized in Greek art by Praxiteles of Athens. His original Aphrodite is lost, and there are many bad-looking copies, but this is one of the better ones (in my opinion). As a final note: there are some who think that this young Apollo may be an original bronze by Praxiteles.
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Old 12-11-2011, 03:16 AM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

Nice post Tron!


Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
Well, I chuckled when CC first started this thread because this could have veered off into lots of different directions. In fact, it splintered immediately - high minded and mind in the gutter. Was happy to see it moved to Café Guerbois where maybe it could have sparked a lively WC conversation but no…already closed. (What happened?)

Well, the fact that the discussion in this thread veered off into lots of different directions probably has to do with the original discussion from which it began: the exchange between pioneergirl and stlukesguild. In that thread, the question of 'personal taste' in the nude figure arose. Everyone has their own, unique preferences base on personal experience, education, and so on. The expression of those opinions (however divers) is what I was primarily interested in. How could the train of such a topic be anything else but nonlinear. This isn't Art History 101, it's an open forum where the expression of ideas and opinions are welcomed, rather than suppressed.

So your lack of surprise is merited.


As far as I know, this thread wasn't moved to Café Guerbois. There was simply a link to it posted there. And I doubt it was closed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
I’ll start by saying I don’t have any nudes from the great art history past to share. I’ve looked at many for a long enough time that they barely register (to me) as anything very…interesting or special.


Ah, but if one cares to delve into them, each and every one of the nudes from the great art history past has something interesting, special and unique: something that transcends questions of subjective beauty or personal appeal.


Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
[Snip]
I’m more interested in “us” rather than “it,” if that makes any sense?

Without knowing the intention of a particular artist it is difficult to determine whether “us” rather than “it” was the source of inspiration for the work produced. What makes you think you're different in this regard?


Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
[When I look at the pictures above, I see lots of smooth, round, curvy, soft bodies. Harmonious skin tones, blemish-free, hairless. Perfectly ideal and ideally, perfect. Seemingly, no objectionable objects here to object to. I’ll give the “old-timers” a break, but once in the “modern” world, the male gaze can make me a little crazy. (Ugh…Schiele and Koons).

If you look closely, there is something "objectionable" to be found in each object or subject posted above. Though some are idealized, non are perfect by any standard definition of the term. And I doubt the artists that created them thought of them as 'perfect' either.

Perhaps the gaze of Schiele, and certainly of Koons, were meant to drive the viewer a little crazy.


Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
So for anybody who would like to teach me a thing or two…she asks oh so innocently and sweetly...

Are there any examples (from this time period) of the female nude form (or male for that matter) that are “ugly or unpleasant-looking,” or was this just not how they artistically viewed their world?

Like Trond, I'm not sure to which "time period" you refer, since we've touched upon several.

There certainly are examples of the treatment of nudes throughout the history of art (probably in all time periods) that can be described as “ugly or unpleasant-looking.” The works of Hieronymus Bosch and El Greco, for instance, come to mind. With regard to the artist's moral and spiritual depravity (or his/her willingness to portray such) the work of Jan Sanders van Hemessen, a master of the mannerist movement, comes to mind: an artist who specialized in scenes of human character flaws such as vanity and greed.

Fra Lippo (like his contemporaries Masaccio and Masolino) painted according to models found in the streets of Florence, and not in the reputable streets alone. "When the guards stop him in the brothel area around the church of San Lorenzo, at night, he preempts their astonished questions by a lecture on human nature. Popes, bishops, priests, monks and friars are but flesh and blood, and their heterosexual as well as homosexual love affairs will take place somewhere, so that there is no true distinction between the convent area and the brothel area." (Source)

But such decadence was not restricted soley the domain of male painters. As far as women, Lavinia Fontana wasn't always anatomically correct in here treatment of the human form.

Keep in mind though, that the study of the human body required working from male nudes and corpses was considered essential background for creating realistic group scenes. Women artists (however few had practiced the trade) were generally barred from training from male nudes, and therefore they were precluded from creating scenes in which the male nude prevailed. Without the benefit of figure drawing from nude male models, most of those women artists (and would-be artists), such as two of Sofonisba Anguissola's sisters, chose marriage over a career in art. There were exceptions, e.g., the daughters of painters, since they were likely able to gain training in their fathers' workshops. In the Low Countries, during the Renaissance, there was enough freedom for women artists to flourish. For example, the records of the Guild of Saint Luke in Bruges show that, not only did they admit women as practicing members, but also that by the 1480s twenty-five percent of its members were women. (Source)

It is evident that due to the fact there were less women painters, the examples of the female nude form that are “ugly or unpleasant-looking,” will be smaller in this population, than in the population of men artists. Nevertheless, examples do still exist, and are worth looking at, to show that the nude (however beautiful or unpleasant to observe) was not restricted to the male gaze alone, of which plenty of examples of the kind you seek exist.

Another example (of a woman artist) is to be seen in the works of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1652). She painted images of strong and suffering women from myth and the Bible, victims, suicides and warriors. Her best-known work, Judith Beheading Holofernes, shows the decapitation of Holofernes, a scene of horrific struggle and blood-letting. And her models were not always beautiful and pleasant-looking:




Artemisia_Gentileschi, 1620, Lucretia




Artemisia Gentileschi, Cleopatra, oil on canvas, Cavallini-Sgarbi Foundation, Ferrara



That noted, she was also more than capable of depicting a human figure in the proud tradition of her epoch; that would sell ("ugly" at the time may not have been considered sellable). The two works reproduced below are not dissimilar to those of Ingres, Titian or Velazquez and others to which you express your dissatisfaction. So the two works above by Gentileschi were not accidents. She evidently chose to express life as it was, not some idealistic world of perfection (as these works may have been viewed):




Artemisia Gentileschi, 1625-30, Sleeping Venus, Oil on canvas, 37 x 56.75 in. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia




Artemisia Gentileschi, 1612, Danaë, oil on copper, 40.5 × 52.5 cm (15.9 × 20.7 in), Saint Louis



Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
Regarding that “high-minded” theory SLG mentioned above….what IS the "formal vocabulary" of the human form and what are the "certain elements of abstraction?"

I'll let stlukesguild respond to this query.



CC

Last edited by Coldcreation2 : 12-11-2011 at 03:32 AM.
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Old 12-11-2011, 10:16 AM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

.





El Greco, 1604-1614, Laocoon, oil on canvas, 142 x 193 cm, National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.


Quote:
The Laocoön is an oil painting created between 1610 and 1614 by renowned Greek born artist and Spanish Renaissance master Doménikos Theotokópoulos, known as El Greco ("The Greek"). It is part of a collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.. [...]

El Greco’s painting deliberately breaks away from the balance and harmony of Renaissance art with its strong emotional atmosphere and distorted figures.[...]

El Greco distorted the rules of proportion by portraying the mythological characters as elongated, contorted figures. [...]

The torturous figures against the terrifying background convey an intense emotional atmosphere. (Source)





Jan Sanders van Hemessen, c. 1540, Judith, oil on panel, 99.1 x 77.2 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago




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Old 12-11-2011, 10:26 AM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

As far as I know, this thread wasn't moved to Café Guerbois. There was simply a link to it posted there. And I doubt it was closed. Sorry, the link over at CG had a lock symbol so I thought that meant you couldn't post anything over there. And I guess you can't because it was just a link directing you back to here. Like the MM rules, I spoke too soon. And not the first time...

Like Trond, I'm not sure to which "time period" you refer, since we've touched upon several. I was referring to "pre 20th century." I was simply wondering if male artists ever depicted "ugly" female nudes and you pointed out some that did. And thanks for the historical info - I don't study the art history past like I "should." But now another question...what makes them ugly or less than ideal - the fact they're not anatomically correct where the skill level wasn't there, or...were the artists depicting ugly "characters?"

The two works reproduced below are not dissimilar to those of Ingres, Titian or Velazquez and others to which you express your dissatisfaction. Now, wait. I'm NOT expressing any "dissatisfaction" with these great works. Who am I to do THAT? In a thread that's bound to be filled with images of nude women, presented here by mostly men, and viewed by me (a female), I'm just offering a female perspective. Not "the" female perspective either. Just one - mine. And that doesn't mean I want/need/expect to see any woman artists represented here. Love who and whatever it is you want to love.

I'm responding more to all the sculptural pieces in this thread for some reason. I really love the Aphrodite and Pan sculpture. What's happening? Is she trying to get away? If so, she's not trying very hard and it even looks as though she has a slight smile on her face. Now when *I* looked at her breasts, I thought, "Those look odd." But the rest of her is...lovely. (Looks like she's been working out at the gym with her little six-pack). And "lovely" is a good word for how I feel about her. Maybe if I try hard enough and stare long enough, I could fall in love with some female nudes, too.
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Old 12-11-2011, 11:17 AM
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Re: Nudes (Warning, Graphic Content)

Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
I was simply wondering if male artists ever depicted "ugly" female nudes and you pointed out some that did. [...] But now another question...what makes them ugly or less than ideal - the fact they're not anatomically correct where the skill level wasn't there, or...were the artists depicting ugly "characters?"


Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
Now, wait. I'm NOT expressing any "dissatisfaction" with these great works. Who am I to do THAT?

Oh, sorry, I must have interpreted your sentence that none of the nudes were "objectionable" to be a dissatisfaction.


Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
In a thread that's bound to be filled with images of nude women, presented here by mostly men, and viewed by me (a female), I'm just offering a female perspective. Not "the" female perspective either. Just one - mine. And that doesn't mean I want/need/expect to see any woman artists represented here. Love who and whatever it is you want to love.

Yes, the female perspective always should be sought after, and it is highly appreciated when it arrives. And i agree with you. Someone should post some nude men to balance the equation.

I was hoping pioneergirl would continue the discussion as well. After all, she started it.



Quote:
Originally Posted by olive oyl
[...] I really love the Aphrodite and Pan sculpture. [...] Now when *I* looked at her breasts, I thought, "Those look odd." But the rest of her is...lovely. (Looks like she's been working out at the gym with her little six-pack). And "lovely" is a good word for how I feel about her. Maybe if I try hard enough and stare long enough, I could fall in love with some female nudes, too.

Now this is getting interesting, please continue.


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