One of my favorite internet friends and fellow art historian (though she has serious cred), theowlofderision, wrote a post about the female nude in art, feminism, and the interplay of those two things.
I like naked ladies. There, I said it. I should qualify that, in the context of this post at least, I’m talking about naked ladies of the painted variety. Oil on canvas makes everything more socially acceptable, no? Take the lovely on the left – Amedeo Modigliani’s Female Nude (1916) – who currently resides on my bedroom wall in print form (and in the Courtauld in her original state). It’s a beautiful painting; one of my favourites, in fact. I love the peaceful look on the woman’s face, and her relaxed posture. The fact that she’s nude is secondary to that air of relaxation, and yet at the same time it’s integral to the painting’s intimacy and naturalness.
It occurred to me recently, while dragging someone round a gallery, that most of the paintings that I pointed out as ‘favourites’ focused upon the female nude as their primary subject. That’s quite a disconcerting conclusion for a female (and feminist) art historian to reach, given the connotations of patriarchal dominance and sexual objectification inherent in the idea of the naked woman painted by the male artist.
Apologies for not being able to do a slicker re-post. I’d like to offer my own take on this issue, so stay on the edge of your seats for that.