Feminist nude painting - what is your favourite portrayal of a woman's body?

(174 Posts)
Imperfectionist Thu 12-Jan-12 21:55:57

The breast implant issue and re-ignition of the debate about modern ideals of a woman's body, especially a much-quoted survey in which school children shown photos of nude women picked the ones with implants as looking most natural, has made me want to make sure we have plenty of representations of normal (and beautiful) female forms in my house, for my daughter.

I do not read and certainly do not have in the house any magazines or media with images of women looking like they've had extensive surgery. My daughter (only three years old) often sees me (a normal shaped size 12 with post-breastfeeding boobs) naked and has good healthy female role models around her. We have lots of pictures on the wall, framed prints from galleries I've visited over the years, and I would like to choose a beautiful nude painting to join them, showing breasts in all of their natural glory.

I've racked my brains, and googled, and wondered if one of you might recommend your favourite portrayal of a non-surgically-enhanced naked woman in paint. The classical artists are sometimes too idealised; and often had barbie boobs even back in Michaelangelo's day. Some nudes are too sexually suggestive for what I'm looking for. I want a painting of a naked woman who radiates strength and beauty, who is comfortable in her skin, with no hint of voyeurism or titillation by the artist.

So... any recommendations for a feminist-inspiring nude painting? Hopefully one I can buy online from the National Gallery or online!

TeiTetua Fri 13-Jan-12 01:27:10

Something by Lucian Freud maybe?


Or perhaps he's too far towards the grotesque, but his stuff varies.

thunderboltsandlightning Fri 13-Jan-12 10:19:13

I don't really get why you feel the need to stick naked women on your walls. The patriarchy has been doing it for quite a long time now. It's not subversive. It sends the message that the value of women is for our bodies and the viewer's asssessment of it.

John Berger's Ways of Seeing outlines the sexual politics of women being nude in art:


Will you be putting a naked man on the wall who radiates strength etc etc, showing his penis in all its natural glory too?

WidowWadman Fri 13-Jan-12 10:37:49

My favourite nude painting is actually a drawing - of myself feeding my baby daughter - I occasionally do life modelling and one of the students gave it to me.

But as for established artists - I like Egon Schiele's stuff, which is quite rough and not about artificial ideal body shapes, and some of Klimt's nudes are lovely too.

I've no idea about whether they would or should be acceptable from a feminist point of view, but find the idea that a feminist should not ever be able to find the depiction of a nude body aesthetic/nice to look at ridiculous

Imperfectionist Fri 13-Jan-12 11:14:44

Interesting posts, and thanks to everyone who has replied so far. The thing is, thunderbolts; I find the female body more attractive than the male, and it's not really genitalia I want on my walls as much as the beautiful curves and flesh and form of a woman's body.

And I also want to have on the wall, somewhere in our house, a natural pair of breasts to counter all of the fake implant versions that are increasingly widely represented. I love the idea of the drawing of you feeding your baby WidowWadman - I have some photos but a line drawing sounds lovely. It's a real reinforcement of how marvellous breasts are too.

I'll have a look at the youtube video after work: I am really interested in the issue, and it's one I am new to.

I do remember the 'do women have to be naked' to get into leading galleries campaign by Guerilla Girls, however. Did they advocate no nudes in art?

Lucian Freud I do like, a definite possible. I'll take a look at Schiele and Klimt. Are there any well-known nudes by women artists?

WidowWadman Fri 13-Jan-12 11:23:40

Tracey Emin has done some nudes, but I don't think that's quite what you're after. Come to think of it, Schiele probably is also a bit too sexual going by your OP.

mumwithdice Fri 13-Jan-12 11:58:39

Titian did a lovely painting of Venus wherein she has quite natural looking breasts AND a bit of a belly. I can't remember the title though.

alexpolismum Fri 13-Jan-12 14:17:55

mumwithdice I think you mean the Venus of Urbino

It's on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

John Berger is known for, among other things, donating half his prize money for a Booker to the Black Panthers in the early 70s, at which time according to the woman who later became their leader, they were an extremely sexist organization. I am not sure he's the best person to theorize about the male gaze and feminism (and at risk of sounding rude, I'm not sure any man is really equipped to do that).

Having said, I admit I'm uneasy about naked women painted by men too - I think however artistic and beautiful the images are, they still play into the same old ideal of woman-as-object. It's like the thread about the size 16 model being celebrated by Anne Summers, TBH.

I think the picture you describe sounds lovely though, WW. I like the idea of celebrating your own body, that's great. Not sure I have the confidence, but if I did, that's what I'd do. smile

wellwisher Fri 13-Jan-12 14:31:27

If you can compromise on the need for breasts hmm, have a look at Georgia O'Keeffe's flower paintings.

And if you don't understand why they're relevant, have another look grin

thunderboltsandlightning Fri 13-Jan-12 14:46:02

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thunderboltsandlightning Fri 13-Jan-12 14:49:08

Out of all the misogynistic organisations to take issue with as well, the Black Panthers is probably pretty far down the list.

I'd be looking at people's allegiances to rock-solid patriarchal institutions first before going after an organisation which based at least partly on dismantling an aspect of the patriarchy (white supremacy).

thunderboltsandlightning Fri 13-Jan-12 14:54:50

Just to add, I think if you could show that Berger supported the Black Panthers because of their misogyny, then you'd have a point LRD, otherwise it's really a pretty random thing to criticise him for, and has nothing to do with the question on this thread, which in part is why people feel it's so important to objectify and portray naked women.

bemybebe Fri 13-Jan-12 15:20:33

"portrayal of a non-surgically-enhanced naked woman in paint"

Sorry, had to laugh here as I immediately remembered Jean Fouquet's Virgin that has some very interesting iconography (this work was commissioned by the french king of his allegedly poisoned mistress allegedly pregnant at the time).

Obviously it was not meant to be this way to the contemporary viewer (mid XVc France), but to the modern one it is one of the most surgically enhanced female forms there are... truly the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder (or not in this case) grin

As I have pointed out, I don't think - and I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but it's my opinion - that I would choose to go to a man to teach me about feminist views of the male gaze. I don't think he's equipped. The rest is just convincing me further reasons why this particular man doesn't leap out at me as an excellent pro-feminist bloke either.

I have to say, I'm not terribly interested in how a man rationalizes supporting a sexist group. I am interested in why women often feel they end up supporting, or working alongside, people who're sexist, but if that is a double standard, it's one I'm comfortable with.

thunderboltsandlightning Fri 13-Jan-12 15:48:06

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Monica Sjoo's God Giving Birth, although it might be a bit woo for some sensibilities.

Fair enough - maybe don't bother linking him another time if you don't really want to recommend him.

I like his books, I just wouldn't choose to link him on a thread like this.

Anyway, I don't want to derail. I enjoyed the O Keeffe images very much. smile

thunderboltsandlightning Fri 13-Jan-12 15:55:44

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MarshaBrady Fri 13-Jan-12 15:56:35

Go with a female artist. Rineke Dijkstra's work is great, but it is photography not painting.

I'm thinking of the undressed and frank images of mothers holding their newborn babies. These are probably a bit too strong for what you have in mind.

tethersend Fri 13-Jan-12 15:58:13

OP, I think you may like Jenny Saville's work- Here

Personally, I am a fan of Euan Uglow, although he was reknowned for treating his models of both sexes quite harshly with the kind of difficult poses he demanded.

thunderboltsandlightning Fri 13-Jan-12 16:03:40

The rule is that women have to get their kit off.

Apparently we can even call it feminist if we're looking at their breasts.

I was reading about Jenny Saville a while back - there was talk about there being an exhibition of her stuff near me, I ought to see if it's happening.

OP, I was wondering - what is it about painting specifically that you're wanting? Because you say you've got prints and I'd be interested to know what you're hoping to find in painting that'd be different from that, or is it just more variety?

Btw, have you read Zadie Smith 'On Beauty'? There's a really interesting (fictionalized, obviously) bit about naked women in art from a young woman's perspective that I keep thinking about on this thread.

tethersend Fri 13-Jan-12 16:11:58

'reknowned'? It's a bit like renowned, but better known. Or something.

'first there is the painful knowning process'.


tethersend Fri 13-Jan-12 16:18:48

Marina Abramovich is well worth a look, although she is a performance artist.

thunderboltsandlightning Fri 13-Jan-12 16:19:03

The bland status quo (in this case - isn't it great to look at naked women and we'll even call it feminist) always stands over more demanding analysis e.g. why is it so important that women are portrayed naked and displayed. People simply don't want to look at the latter.

The Guerilla Girls made the point but obviously not hard enough.

If three year old boys don't need pictures of naked men around the house for their self esteem, then why do three year old girls, unless it's about making sure that three year old girls know what women are for, and what their role will be when they grow up - to be looked at, to be assessed, to be displayed. More naked women doesn't counter the culture of display and objectification of women, it reinforces it.

Do you have any links, tethers - I checked youtube but it's not coming up with anything. confused

tethersend Fri 13-Jan-12 16:22:59

<decides against mentioning Jeff Koons grin>

tethersend Fri 13-Jan-12 16:24:15

Here, LRD smile

Thanks! smile

TheSmallClanger Fri 13-Jan-12 22:17:19

Pierre Bonnard did some lovely pictures of his wife Marthe in the bath. He often painted her, usually clothed.

In terms of feminist art, there is more to it than pictures of naked women. You could try having a look at Niki de st. Phalle's female images, or Pauline Boty's attractive critiques of conventional, media femininity.

WidowWadman Fri 13-Jan-12 23:06:28

LRD - thing is that nudes in art often aren't about sexual objectification anyway, at least that's how I see it. It's lovely to draw a nude body, looking at shapes, how the light falls onto it, how it moves. A good life model needn't be attractive in conventional terms as long as he or she is able to hold a pose for a while.

I've started modelling after taking some drawing classes as I wanted to find out what it's like, and I like looking at the drawings when they're done.

And yes, in a way, the model is objectified, after all, it's about drawing his or her body, not having meaningful discussions about the meaning of life. But it's nothing to do at all with sexual objectification at all, and it doesn't matter whether it's a male or female model, or whether the students who are drawing are male or female.

I think the issue for me is that it's nearly impossible to tell when a naked woman isn't being objectified, if there's someone gaining money or power or status from looking at her. And art does give money and status, and maybe power.

I don't mean every time someone does life drawing they're turning into an evil exploiter of women (least I hope not because I used to love drawing). But I don't find it easy to ignore the power dynamic either.

For me personally, a big part of the difficulty is that women's bodies look like each other; it's hard not to look at a lovely, beautiful image like some of those linked to on this thread and (esp. if you're in a depressive mood) see the way that same body has been exploited. sad

Sorry, that is dead depressing, I know, but I have some images on my mind that are bothering me atm.

Anyway, I really don't want to derail so will stop trying to explain myself.

rosy71 Sat 14-Jan-12 08:56:05

And I also want to have on the wall, somewhere in our house, a natural pair of breasts

This bit conjured up a bizarre image!! Seriously, I don't know why you need to have a painting of a nude woman on your wall confused unless it's so your daughter can appreciate art. Like others have said, boys don't need to have paintings of nude men on the wall.

WidowWadman Sat 14-Jan-12 22:08:29

rosy71 The OP doesn't read like the gender of the child is relevant confused

Imperfectionist Sun 15-Jan-12 13:14:54

Hello again, I've been away and only just caught up with this thread. I'm going to sit down tonight and have a close look at all the links you have given, and am looking forward to doing so.

Actually WW the gender of my child (a girl) is important: I want to have, in our home, examples of woman who are beautiful to look at (and we all know that beauty be found in many ways, not just a pretty face and slim figure) and who are not surgically enhanced, or sexually objectified. I love art - all genres - and I love portraiture. And I love the female body (including my own grin). I do not particularly like gazing at the male body as much (although I am hetero and happily married).

MarshaBrady Sun 15-Jan-12 13:42:44

Imperfectionist what do you think of the artist I mentioned that does photography? Rineke Dijkstra.

It is difficult to cut through the notion of passively observing a female 'nude'. In fact nude is a loaded term, with its own history and meaning.

I think she jolts us into realising the females are naked, but also lends them strength and tenderness. Probably a bit too much for a wall in your home though.

(The ones with mothers holding a newborn.)

kittensmakemesqueee Sun 15-Jan-12 17:27:52
kittensmakemesqueee Sun 15-Jan-12 17:31:19

Btw I think the human body is perfect in it's natural state..but from a very early age we are told to be ashamed of it, to feel disgusted by it..and to not understand that we are perfect just as we are. Which is why I am constantly covered up because I don't want anyone to see my hideous flesh. I think having a couple of nudes around the house and being left there as though they are totally normal is a great idea. Especially for a parent of a girl. I don't think men need to see paintings of a powerful man with his cock out because basically that's implied every day.

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 15-Jan-12 17:37:50

Putting nude women on the wall doesn't counteract the "female bodies are disgusting" myth though. Nor is it the body in it's natural state - it's a painting.

Maybe if all the people who feel very strongly about that myth walked around naked it might help.

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 15-Jan-12 17:38:51

"I do not particularly like gazing at the male body as much"

I thought this was about your daughter though, not you OP.

ginmakesitallok Sun 15-Jan-12 17:47:38

What about something by Francesca Woodman? here

kittensmakemesqueee Sun 15-Jan-12 18:01:46

Thunderbolts I'd love to walk around naked but the I can't afford the years of therapy it would cost me. Did you see the paintings I linked to? Can you really take offense to them? Do you also dislike male nudes? If the Op enjoys art and likes having painting around her home anyway..wouldn't NOT showing a nude (when they are such a prolific theme in art) be a bit conspicuous? Almost like it was something to be hidden?

AThingInYourLife Sun 15-Jan-12 18:14:41

I think as long as you are buying into the "female bodies are beautiful, male bodies are not" sexist trope (companion to "men are visual creatures), you aren't going to be teaching your daughter anything healthy about her body by putting a picture of a naked woman on your wall for her to gaze at.

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 15-Jan-12 18:15:57

I'm not taking offense, I'm making a political argument. There's a difference kittens.

I'm sure the OP will do what she wants, but she was couching her plans in feminist terms and I'm not sure it's possible to do that.

not a painting. photo of me with DS. He was about 15 minutes old and i was starkers, sweaty knackered but deliriously happy.

my body was not perfect by societies aesthetic al ideals, but it had just done the very thing it was created for.

I can think of no piece of "art" more beautiful

and i am no beauty i can assure you

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 15-Jan-12 18:20:14

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alexpolismum Sun 15-Jan-12 18:29:42

OP, do you really find no beauty in the male form? here is a picture of a beautiful male form, see what you think of it

Ask me what, sorry, thunder? I wasn't ignoring you, I just didn't realize you had anything else to say.

My point is very simple - I have read John Berger's books, but sadly since he is a man, I personally do not feel comfortable taking lessons from him about feminist understandings of the male gaze.

I think that is is not really possible to advance a feminist argument for male theorists pontificating on the male gaze.

Others are perfectly entitled to disagree.

Btw, thunder, are you sure you actually posted the questions and didn't just think them? You haven't actually addressed me, or used a question mark at all since I last posted so I'm not sure how I was meant to realize you were still asking me questions. confused

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 15-Jan-12 18:49:40

Once again, I didn't say it was a feminist understanding of the male gaze, I said he offered a male understanding of the male gaze. When men tell the truth about how male power operates, it's useful for women. That's the actual truth, not the male supremacist version, in case you're confused.

Also I think it's very odd to dismiss men's work out of hand. The question is whether it's correct or not. I think you're misunderstanding feminism if you think men have nothing to offer. What they do have to offer is the truth about male power and how it operates, which women are never allowed to be directly privy to. So when men do tell the truth it's useful, like Berger. Unfortunately it happens rarely - but the more often that men betray male power the better. I think what's happening here is that you're getting confused with the idea that men can't be leaders in feminism, which is correct, with the idea that men never have anything useful to say about male supremacy, which doesn't really make any sense at all from whatever feminist point of view you're coming from.

The questions I asked, which you ignored were - do you dismiss Dworkin and MacKinnon given the fact that they also supported the Black Panthers like Berger? And also did you actually watch the film?

Also you didn't answer this:

""The rest is just convincing me"

What rest?"

So yeah, quite a few questions that you just didn't feel the need to answer, despite the fact it was my post you were challenging. Maybe you find it difficult to read my posts or something.

You certainly seemed to completely misinterpret what I said upthread claiming that I "really didn't want to recommend him" which was the total opposite to what i was actually saying. Just bizarre really.

I know you didn't say he offered a feminist understanding. I didn't suggest you did, only that, for me, the fact he's a man and I'm a feminist makes me less keen to look to him as an authority here. I think given this is the feminism section, it's a fair point to make.

Personally, I don't think that a man is equipped to understand what it is like being a woman, and for me, this is really important when we're thinking about the male gaze. You're entitled to disagree, of course. You're not, I think, entitled to take the piss.

I would like to leave this topic now, since this is not a thread you started, and you don't seem to want to engage with the OP, or with me, just to insist that my posts don't answer your questions. I'm sorry they don't, but I have done my best and think it will derail the thread to get further off-topic. I hope that is ok with the OP.

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 15-Jan-12 19:07:29

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I don't agree. However, if, OP, I was derailing, I'm really sorry.

thunder, I will continue to post exactly how I choose, thank-you. You don't get to tell me to shut up. If you feel that one of us is under-informed, look to yourself, and I will do the same, and with luck eventually we'll both learn a lot.

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 15-Jan-12 19:11:31

"if you feel that one of us is under-informed, look to yourself"

Do you really believe that? It's certainly appears to be what you've been trying to insinuate with all these posts of yours.

I think there are huge areas about which you are amazingly well-informed, and brilliant. I know there is no-one who can do what you do by way of standing up for women who're struggling and post to ask for help. I respect that hugely.

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 15-Jan-12 19:20:31

We're talking about whether you believe I'm uninformed about feminism, in particular radical feminism. You just described Relationships there.

I've already seen the damning with faint praise the last time when I left, when a so-called feminist here said I'd be missed ......in Relationships.

Don't give a politician's answer, be honest.

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WidowWadman Sun 15-Jan-12 19:27:53

See, I thought it would be good for both girls and boys to realise that a natural body can be beautiful and the photoshopped imagery we're surrounded by is unrealistic. That's why I thought the gender of the child doesn't matter much.

thunderboltsandlightning Sun 15-Jan-12 19:33:59

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I am not trying to set myself up as a radical feminist, or an authority.

I would just like to be able to express an opinion without being shouted down and told it is stupid, or having lies quoted, like the one above which is nothing that I ssaid. Is that really so hard?

Ok. I went off and calmed down.

I was out of line. I should not have risen to the bait and answered, since I can see my answer is hurtful.

I did answer your questions, both of them. I told you I personally don't want to look to Berger here. And I told you that I do think support of or association with a sexist group may come across differently if it's a woman (like Dworkin) from the way it comes across if it's a man (like Berger).

You're entitled to disagree, and so is anyone else. What is IMO not on is to take offense at me stating an opinion and to start telling me to shut up. I know that you have a lot of knowledge and understanding in certain areas, and that you (rightly) command a lot of respect on here as a result of the help you've given to a lot of women. But you don't have any authority to tell me I'm a bad feminist. I find it hurtful, and I think you maybe don't realize that it comes across as hurtful and upsetting. I do feel like you constantly tell me to shut up, and unless I post in praise of you, you take issue with me posting in response to you at all. That's not fair. You and I may have different views, but it's not on to insist yours is right and I should shut up, just because it seems that way to you. It seems that way to me, too, and to anyone who's in an argument. That's how communication works.

So, that's why I was getting upset and why I reacted as I did. I am really sorry to the OP that I got into it and didn't just walk away.

KRITIQ Mon 16-Jan-12 00:05:29

I can't recall if Paula Rego has done any nudes, but I love the way she depicts the female form and imho, a few of her prints would be a lovely counterpoint to depictions of the female body in the three ways it is commonly featured when displayed in public spaces - a.) something shameful that needs to be hidden, b.) something that exists to be enjoyed, consumed, etc. by men, or c.) something that looks nothing like the bodies of most real women (e.g. hairless, elongated, thin with large, uplifted breasts.)

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 08:48:54

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I have said what I think before. I do not think you should keep pushing me to say it again. It isn't good for either of us. Let's just leave it.

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 11:20:41

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KRITIQ Mon 16-Jan-12 11:27:37

Folks, seriously, this isn't looking good from any angle. Surely let it go or find a better forum for addressing an issue between a couple of members, imho.

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 11:39:13

Do you have a response to Berger other than "he's a man and he supported the Black Panthers"? Possibly an actual assessment of what he was discussing given that you're taking issue with him?

Because that would actually be relevant to this thread, given that he was talking about the female nude in art and its meaning, and so is this thread.

As I said, personally, I would not want to look to Berger, because he is a man, and because, to me, the fact he supported the Black Panthers at a time when their subsequent female leader said they were very sexist is a concern.

These do not have to be concerns to you. It is a matter of opinion. Other people have also advanced opinions, such as that the OP might be better to look at art by women, or photographs of herself.

As I have said, personally, I'm not comfortable with the argument that art showing the female body can ever really be extricated from objectification of women. But that is my personal view. I don't need you or the OP to share it, and I don't mind if you disagree. That's what we here for - debating and thinking and coming to a position.

I thought my post was relevant to the thread, and if it wasn't, I can only apologize to the OP for that.

The way I see it, it's like the threads about reading books by women, or listening to music by women. Does that mean we think men can't write decent books or compose good music? Of course not. It doesn't have to be that simple.

I was hoping someone would recommend a female art critic or art historian, and if anyone can, that would be nice.

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 12:00:31

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And I am replying, no, thank you, I do not want to think about his argument. For the reasons I have explained.

There is nothing wrong with saying, no, I would rather look at and listen to a woman's perspective. It doesn't mean I reject everything any man has ever said, just that it seemed (and seems) to me that, for the question on this specific thread, it'd be better not to bring in men's views.

I don't see why this is an issue - we disagree. Maybe one of us is wrong, maybe both of us are. It doesn't matter, except insofar as we might help the OP work out what she's asked us to help her think about.

I don't think I am racist. I hope I am not. As I said, I think Dworkin, or MacKinnon, or another woman supporting the Black Panthers would be different, but I do wonder about him, because he gave them his money at a time when they were giving Elaine Brown and other women members a really hard time. It may be that shouldn't bother me, but it does a bit. I do wonder about a man who doesn't notice, or doesn't care about, sexism in an organisation he supports, and then is recommended as a good analyst of teh male gaze.

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 12:07:50

I think that's a very ignorant approach, and one that isn't related to feminism, however much you might want to claim it is.

If a man is saying something that might be useful to women e.g. outlining the ways in which men objectify us, and the meanings they create by those actions, then dismissing it out of hand because it's a man saying it, smacks of I don't know what.

Well, it hangs on that 'if', doesn't it? One might as well say, why bother to read books by women, if Shakespeare did it already?

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 12:11:51

Speaking of men's views, mind you - another thing that hasn't been mentioned is a real man's view - the view belonging to Imperfectionist's male partner/husband (if she has one) of the "glorious" breasts on the wall.

If I went into a house that had pictures like that, I'd think it was some kind of sexy couply thing - sort of a "look how free and sexy we are about bodies" statement - definitely not a feminist statement. Men looking at pictures of naked women is politically problematic. You can't get away from that.

Yes, I think you're right, it's hard to know how Mr Imperfectionist is going to avoid confirming to his DC exactly what his wifeis trying to avoid.

I certainly agree that men looking at pictures of naked women is politically problematic. This was my basic point, really.

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 12:27:57

Who said anything about not reading books by women? Not me. Read everything by feminists, and if a handful of men have something useful to say read them too. It's never been either/or.

This stuff about the "male gaze" - I haven't mentioned the male gaze although you keep bringing it up in relation to my recommendation of Berger. I said that Berger describes the sexual politics of male sexual objectifcation of naked women.

And I was just about to say, I'm pretty sure that the "male gaze" is some kind of academented term that lib fems came up with so they don't have to talk about the concrete reality of male sexual objectificaiton of women, so I googled it and sure enough, the term was invented by a postmodernist, one of those who thinks that it's a good idea to inegrate Freud and Lacan into feminist theory - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Mulvey

No, thunder, I said things about reading books by women. In my posts on this thread. confused

I also brought up the male gaze, because it seemed relevant to a discussion of men looking at women.

If you don't like the term, that is fair enough. Personally, I think it is useful and interesting. But we can disagree about that too, it is fine.

Btw, some people would realize that if, on a thread not stated by them, I discussed concepts and terminology not mentioned by them, I might not be arguing against them, but rather making my own points. Do you see that?

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 12:38:37

You said Berger, and I quote:

"is recommended as a good analyst of teh male gaze"

Well he wasn't by me, so who or what are you talking about there?

Do you see why I read that as a response to what I was talking about, given that it was the subject of our discussion?

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 12:42:29

Also you responded to me saying this:

"If a man is saying something that might be useful to women e.g. outlining the ways in which men objectify us, and the meanings they create by those actions, then dismissing it out of hand because it's a man saying it, smacks of I don't know what."

with this

"Well, it hangs on that 'if', doesn't it? One might as well say, why bother to read books by women, if Shakespeare did it already?"

So yes, you are implying that by the logic of what I said we could argue that shouldn't read books by women. Which is a patently ridiculous claim to make.

We've been through this. I thought you were recommending him, said so, and then understood you were not. When I said this, you denied that too.

I did assume by this point we had moved on a bit, and I have simply been trying to state my opinion.

Understandably, perhaps, I think it's best if I just concentrate on trying to explain what I think rather than trying to follow what you claim, since it seems to change from post to post.

If you had meant to recommend him, but not as an analyst of the male gaze because you reject the terminology, it would have been fine to say so clearly at the time. If that's all we disagree about, that's great, and maybe we can leave it at that?

I disagree it was a patently ridiculous claim - it seemed to me simple and obvious. Again, it's ok if we disagree. I don't think my opinion is anything more than an opinion.

You seem to think it's not on to respond to your posts by bringing in a new opinion, or a new thought - all this 'I have never said x' so how dare you bring it up' kind of talk - what do you expect? I disagree, therefore my posts will tend to contain new points.

KRITIQ Mon 16-Jan-12 12:54:45

This really is looking like a slow motion car crash, and making this board feel "not safe" for me at least.

Kritiq - I'm sorry it feels like that. Obviously, it doesn't feel 'safe' for me either, and hasn't for a while. I can see that it is not nice for others, but I do feel it is not on to expect me to keep putting up with what feels like a very personal and one-sided attack.

I accept it probably doesn't look that way to others, but I can only call it as I see it. I promise I have tried very hard for a long time to avoid getting into public rows and I have been pushed at and pushed at for a response.

I'm going off out now, and hopefully other people will feel able to ignore all of this.

KRITIQ Mon 16-Jan-12 13:10:34

I think it's just that few folks will know any of the back story. I don't myself. In my experience, mostly elsewhere, the subject kind of gets lost in the tooing and froing between the couple or however many folks are involved when something becomes so fraught and personal. I think the hurting is plain to see, but imho, continuing to play it out on a forum like this rarely brings a positive resolution, for anyone. It's hard to watch and I know it's not exactly a picnic for those involved in it.

Just take care.

Kri, I stepped away and got told I was 'ignoring'; I gave a tactful response and was pushed for more.

I see you're upset but what exactly would you like me to do? I don't want to upset you but I don't enjoy being upset myself, either.

KRITIQ Mon 16-Jan-12 13:19:53

LRD, I don't know what the answer is. I think conflicts like this are inherent in the form of communication we're using. Taking something "off board" is sometimes the answer, but not always for a whole swathe of reasons. Agreeing to disagree of course doesn't guarantee that someone won't bring things up again sooner or later.

I'm concerned about both of you as well as how it feels for others reading. I know it's not easy to let something drop as that can still feel very unfinished. I wish I knew some simple answer, but all I can say is that I don't think there will be anything particularly positive for anyone if it continues in the same vein here. Damage done and all that, but if there's a way of it not getting even worse, well, maybe?

WowOoo Mon 16-Jan-12 13:22:28

I like this one by Stanley Spencer. I think it's nice to see someone who is not young. She's still very intriguing.
Sorry it's a male artist, but I love his work. Hope the link works.

Sorry, I don't know what the answer is either. I'm not taking it off board.

That is interesting wow, I hadn't see any of his work. smile

KRITIQ Mon 16-Jan-12 13:40:32

Suzanne Valadon did some wonderful pictures, including some nudes. Look here and here. She had quite a remarkable life as well.

WowOoo Mon 16-Jan-12 13:44:00

There's another Stanley Spencer that I can't find. Again an older woman with a lovely wrinkly tummy. Will try to find it again.

That reminds me of Gwen John - I first read about her in a book by Margaret Forster that is based on John's life, and she did some nude self-portraits that are distinctly un-erotic (IMO). THe first link I found has a really patronizing comment underneath which kind of suggests her way of painting naked women pissed off whoever wrote the blog!


(Btw, the one in the link isn't a self-portrait).

JugglingWithSnowballs Mon 16-Jan-12 13:51:38

A simple drawing by Picasso ?
( don't know the name of it)
Also marking my place as interesting thread and I'd like to come back and have a read and a look at links later smile

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 14:02:34

"We've been through this. I thought you were recommending him, said so, and then understood you were not."

I am recommending him

Which bit of that do you not understand?

I am not recommending him as someone explaining "the male gaze" (postmodernist BS) or a feminist analysis of art. Those are your own fanciful interpretations which you came up with to base your (wrong) arguments on, not what I said. I'm recommending him as a man providing information on the sexual politics of male objectification of women in art. He's a marxist radical, he understands power relations.

Stop misrepresenting me. Just stop it.

thunderboltsandlightning Mon 16-Jan-12 14:11:08

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Mon 16-Jan-12 14:35:23

Haven't read the whole thread but I really like Sleeping Venus because she's on her own and just looks really comfortable and relaxed in the land.

Imperfectionist Mon 16-Jan-12 21:32:18

Hi all, what a great thread, I'm really pleased I started it but sorry to have not been as involved in the debate - since I first posted we've had a minor (very) family crisis and I've not been able to get online much. Will catch up though! I'm also happy to see its inspired some strong opinions too...

I've been looking at all the links suggested and want to very quickly give some initial reactions to a quick glance through the links you've all thoughtfully posted (please forgive my descriptions if they are ignorant or insulting or naive - I'm certainly no art critic).

Francesca Woodman was a little bit too 'considered'
Giorgia O'Keefes are beautiful, and although not what I'm looking for here, I would love to have on my wall (especially with added 'double-take' value!). Lucian Freud just too... too... rugged for my walls, although I enjoy looking at his work in galleries.
The Venus of Urbino is beautiful, although I'd prefer something more modern if possible.
Monica Sjoo's God Giving Birth - well, wow, that's strong stuff (and would go with my daughter's picture book 'Big Momma Made the Earth' about the creation myth with God portrayed as a single mum).
Jenny Saville's painting is impressive - are the contours on the body depicting mother earth or the lines drawn by plastic surgeons? But not really showing the female form as beautiful to my mind.
I really like Euan Uglow's style and use of colour - I've never heard of him, but will look into more.
Rineke Dijkstra just too stark, and if I was going to have statement photography like that I'd rather it be of one of our family to make it more personal. Does that make sense?
The Stanley Spencer painting is fabulous - very, very strong, and inspiring to think of what a marvellous woman she appears to be: http://www.soho-art.com/shopinfo/uploads/1278371707_large-image_stanleyspencernudeportraitofpatriciapreece1935010oilpaintinglarge.jpg
The Klimt ones are beautiful, and I don't have any Klimt - definitely on the shortlist.
I'd love to see an exhibition of francesca woodman's work, but at a glance her photography seems haunted by something. I feel uncomfortable gazing on it.
Michelangelo's David is mostly beautiful, for sure. I love his sculpture, and saw some in person for the first time only recently.
Sleeping Venus is too erotically suggestive (for this instance).

Thanks for the recommendation of Zadie Smith's On Beauty, which has been on my shelf for a while unread, I will put it on top of my bedside pile.

Imperfectionist Mon 16-Jan-12 21:35:49

As to the more philosophical responses about whether my desire to put an artistic portrayal of a naked woman, not surgically enhanced, but beautiful - particularly her breasts - thank you all, and there is some real food for thought. Particularly from LRD, Thunderbolts, WidowWadman and others.

Some background about me - I'm a woman who only 'discovered' feminism literature, theory and conscious thinking in recent years, and am still learning, reading, talking, and following some of the fascinating threads that appear on this board.

I think that my aim here is actually quite feminist. I simply want to counter-balance the masses of visual depictions of the surgically enhanced female form in media, advertising, sometimes even toys, with alternative images in our home. Not even just to subconsciously influence my daughter's opinion of what female beauty is, but to inspire me, a grown and confident woman in my mid 30s, as well. Would you say I am being un-feminist? Or just naive?

This is a private initiative, that will be in our house - the space I'm thinking I'll hang my chosen picture is the upstairs landing, outside our bedrooms and bathrooms. I'm not trying to impress visitors or make a talking point. It's a picture to inspire my family and something I can tell my daughter is a normal woman's body, and beautiful for it.

JugglingWithSnowballs Tue 17-Jan-12 10:20:27

Hi Imperfectionist - I've enjoyed the thread too, especially seeing the pictures everyone has linked to, so thanks for starting it !
However I do wonder if you are a little over conscious of what women look like as opposed to other aspects of the person. When you said your daughter sees you naked you put in brackets that you were "a normal shaped size 12 with post-breast-feeding boobs" Now, this may be of interest to the reader and relevant to the thread, but I wouldn't describe myself in those terms. I'd just say
that my daughter sometimes sees me naked (so she had the opportunity to see the normal female form ?) But I do understand it can be difficult when you're writing about your own body, we are all so sensitive to criticism here, even by ourselves.
Interesting stuff !

I do agree it is tricky.

I think the issue is, there's a difference between seeing women's bodies, in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and seeing art of women's bodies.

I agree that it is worrying that girls and women see so many images of women that are all very similar physically, often very unrealistic or unattainable physically, and often naked (and nakedness isn't just associated with sex, it's also associated with being made powerless). I can understand wanting to counter that with seeing lots of women who're happily different shapes and sizes.

I think the issue with art of women naked is that it makes a commodity out of a woman's naked body, even if that commodity is very high-brow and respectable - it's still making a woman's naked body into a thing to be looked at. In that respect it's different from, say, hoping your DC will notice that there are several women on the beach who don't seem bothered their non-model bodies are on show.

I'm not trying to judge as I think this is a very interesting topic.

I think as well, you're looking to teach your DD to like her body, right? But she might get the message from these images 'your body is beautiful ... and it is for other people to look at'. It's that argument that's put forward for page 3 (she has a lovely body, she should be proud of it and show it off').

OTOH, I have read that many adult women won't actually look at their own bodies, as a whole, in the mirror. They look at bits - is my face ok, are my legs ok, does my tummy stick out? I don't know how you would change this, but it seems clear to me that art presupposes an observer to approve the image, whereas what you seem to be looking for is a way to make your DD happy with her own image of herself?

Sorry, just some rather rambly thoughts.

JugglingWithSnowballs Tue 17-Jan-12 11:06:41

Also are we saying that women's bodies are beautiful within a certain size range ( by only showing those that fall in this range ) What if your or my dd become very large at some time in their lives ? How will they feel ?

I think I'd rather get away a bit from the idea that women's bodies should be beautiful to behold.
Think images like O' Keeffe's flowers are more interesting and empowering !
I think I'm with the Guerilla Girls - there should be more ways for women to get into art galleries than through images of them being hung on the walls.
I'd love to see some of DDs art in a gallery one day ! My mother helped to organise an exhibition for a couple of young people in our family, of both sexes - what a great thing to do !

Very interested to see self-portrait by woman artist from a couple of centuries ago on recent visit to National Portrait Gallery. Sorry I don't remember the name, but I particularly liked that she had included in the background another painting she was working on - of her two sons ( very clever I thought, and brilliantly done. Must have taken some talent to achieve that in the times in which she lived ) Apologies I don't have the name or a link ( Two skills I need to work on ! )

WidowWadman Tue 17-Jan-12 12:57:55

If my daughter became morbidly obese, I'd hope she'd have the sense to see that that's not healthy and do something about it.

I don;t think there's anything wrong with finding male and female bodies beautiful and liking to look at it.

JugglingWithSnowballs Tue 17-Jan-12 13:10:49

But, as women, we are judged so much on our appearance.
It's very limiting isn't it ?

WidowWadman Tue 17-Jan-12 14:31:50

We're talking about art, right? One of which purposes is to be decorative. Is the decorative depiction of a human body really so abhorrent? Does one have to stick to animals, inanimate objects and landscapes?

I disagree that one purpose of art is to be decorative. I know artists who'd find that characterization a bit rude, TBH. But that is a side issue.

One issue is, why do we find some bodies more 'decorative' than others? There's a long history of women's bodies being treated as decorative property, decorative objects. Without this history, perhaps it wouldn't matter. I doubt it begins with art and I don't see any evidence that societies that do ban the depiction of humans in artwork have better attitudes towards women's bodies. But that history is there and the same attitude is there in our present day. Given that, it does I think become a tricky issue rather than a simple one.

WidowWadman Tue 17-Jan-12 14:49:03

I said one purpose of art is being decorative, not that the only purpose of art is being decorative. It's all a bit Pater vs Ruskin.

And tastes differ. Some people find one bodyshape more attractive than others. Rejecting the whole idea of finding bodies attractive in my view is disingenuous.

I know, I just wanted to say there are some people who'd object to the idea that even one purpose of art is to be decorative.

I think, as well, the point is that we're not talking about finding bodies attractive, are we? We're talking about paintings or photos of bodies.

I'm not just quibbling, I think it's a central point. I mean, when you find an actual person attractive, it seems to me that their body isn't something you separate out from the rest of them as a person. And again, finding someone else's body attractive isn't the same as finding your own body attractive, which is I think one thing the OP is getting at.

AF was saying, IIRC, about how so many women in her experience don't even think to find their own bodies attractive. I thought that was really sad. Maybe it's part of the issue here?

Hullygully Tue 17-Jan-12 15:09:21

This thread has been fascinating for all the wrong reasons.

But, as far as the OP goes, I do think that just having pics of female nudes, whatever shapes and sizes, plays into, inevitably, a feeling of women-as-show/object. I'd have both genders in all diff sizes and shapes.

Hullygully Tue 17-Jan-12 15:10:50

I have a very nice drawing of a woman's ordinary breasts that my dd (13) has recently covered in masking tape because they are "rude."

JugglingWithSnowballs Tue 17-Jan-12 15:13:30

Why do you think fascinating for all the wrong reasons hully ?

Care to expand ? smile

WidowWadman Tue 17-Jan-12 15:14:01

I can't take people who argue that art is never decorative or used for decorative purposes seriously. Not for a second.

And yes, we're talking about depictions of bodies, rather than bodies themselves, but the notion that depicting an attractive body and hanging it on your wall for decorative purposes should be always wrong just doesn't sit easy with me.

Especially in art, which happily always has depicted male and female bodies in the buff (apart from examples such as Luncheon on the Grass http://www.essentialart.com/sw/Edouard_Manet_Luncheon_on_the_Grass_f.jpg so I really don't think that female nudes in art is really something that political.

Also, as the different examples on this thread have pointed out there's plenty of different shapes and sizes to be found in art - it's not always photoshopped into oblivion polygonic fantasy beauty. Art which depicts non-conventionally beautiful bodies in a decorative way actually can do a whole lot of good to help people who feel not happy with their non-conventionally beautiful body to realise their own beauty.

When I pose for life drawing there's plenty of men and women drawing my body, and of course they're looking at my body, not what I have to say. They looking at lights and shades on my lumpy and bumpy body - and the next week they're looking at lights and shades on someone else's lumpy and bumpy body and learn how to get that onto paper with various tools. Nothing to do with me being powerless or a sex object - the lack of clothes just makes it easier to concentrate on the actual body shape and the result sometimes is realistic, sometimes the opposite, some of them are sensual, others aren't.

As someone who's done and is doing both sides of life drawing I find some of the conclusions re objectification actually quite offensive.

Hullygully Tue 17-Jan-12 15:14:08

Not on your nelly

Hullygully Tue 17-Jan-12 15:14:23

soz - that was to juggling

JugglingWithSnowballs Tue 17-Jan-12 15:17:00

Fair enough, but I'm left not knowing what you were thinking.
Perhaps if I look back more over thread I may get my own ideas.

Good practice here anyway for my assertiveness training !

Hullygully Tue 17-Jan-12 15:18:33

Oh nothing bad, juggling, just goodness me what a carry on type thing.

suzikettles Tue 17-Jan-12 15:18:54

The most empowering experience I ever had was in the changing rooms of the Sports Union at University. Back then (no idea if it's the same now), noone covered up while showering or getting changed and so for the first time in my life I saw a range of naked women.

It was a real eye opener that these women were all shapes and sizes under their clothes, all normal.

We see other women around us clothed all the time, and compare ourselves (or not), but when it comes to our naked body we often only have pictures of an idealised form to compare ourselves to.

Anyway, maybe a bit OT, but I remember at the time feeling way better about my naked self smile

Maybe you should take your daughter on a naturist holiday op!

I don't understand how saying art has been doing female nudes for a long time, leads to the conclusion it's not political? Surely, given we've been living in a patriarchial society for a long time, we'd expect to see the effects of that in art?

Seems to me that you're saying, well, I know about the way women have historically been objectified when their naked bodies are used so others can profit or exert power, and I know this is still happening to women in some media and some situations, but I want to forge a new kind of art that looks the same as the old one but discounts its misogyny. I can understand wanting to say that. I love art too. I just don't know how to do it, you know? And I don't know if hanging up images of naked women is, in our current society, going to have the effect the OP is hoping it'll have, on her DD.

JugglingWithSnowballs Tue 17-Jan-12 15:22:20

Thanks for friendly reply Hully

see, there's something in this assertiveness malarky isn't it ?

I agree, I don't think it can do anything other than reinforce the message that women are for undressing and looking at, however well-intentioned the OP and however varied the body shapes on display.

WidowWadman Tue 17-Jan-12 15:30:34

I don't deny that there is some art depicting nude women which objectifies women, but that doesn't mean that it's true for all art depicting nude women.

It's not a black and white issue.

Hullygully Tue 17-Jan-12 15:33:19

Unfortunately, as our general culture is all about phwoaarr where females are concerned, any depiction of the female falls upon the same eye and area of the brain used to assessing them as objects.

How do you distinguish between art depicting naked women that objectifies women, and art depicting naked women that doesn't? Does it partly depend on the observer and how they're equipped to interpret it? (I don't know).

I'm not unwilling to believe a lot of art isn't made with the intention of objectifying anyone and certainly lots of the art by women of themselves seems to be of that kind. What I think is the problem, though, is that you take that piece of art, and no matter what the conditions of its production, you see it in the context of our society, wherein women's nakedness is routinely exploited by and for the patriarchy. How can that not have an impact on how the piece of art is understood?

LadyClariceCannockMonty Tue 17-Jan-12 15:35:33

I don't disagree about the idea of having bodies of both genders, both clothed and unclothed.

But on the other hand, if the OP thinks female nude bodies are beautiful, and will display pictures of them with pride and joy, she will probably pass on those ideas to her daughter. And I don't think that can be a bad thing.

OP, I might be totally imagining this but I THINK Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes about art/culture. Also, on a slight tangent, her key work Women Who Run With the Wolves, if you don't know it, takes archetypal folk/fairy stories and uses them to examine women's 'stories' and their lot throughout history. It is celebratory and a bit wild (in a great way!)

FrozenChocolate Tue 17-Jan-12 15:42:28

this is my all time favourite photo of a naked woman. It's just so simple and natural.

Hullygully Tue 17-Jan-12 15:47:26
LadyClariceCannockMonty Tue 17-Jan-12 15:48:33

Hully, isn't it quite helpful, in that case, to encourage children (and adults, actually, come to think of it) to look at depictions of naked women and, rather than thinking 'phwoaarr', look at them from the point of view of line, shadow, shape, etc? To me that's the same, and as valuable as, looking at, say, a Cezanne still life from an art-appreciation point of view.

Hullygully Tue 17-Jan-12 15:51:05

Certainly is.

But, meanwhile, outside of an art class, that's rarely how they are looked at.

And what I think is interesting is how apart from Michelangelo's tiny dainty penis, the "artistic" depiction of penes remains a no no for our living room walls.

Hullygully Tue 17-Jan-12 15:52:38

Spencer Tunnock pictures are good. Loads of nudes of all ages and sizes in pleasing artistic compositions quite devoid of sexual connotations.

LadyClariceCannockMonty Tue 17-Jan-12 15:55:34

Well, if they're rarely looked at that way perhaps the OP and anyone else who hangs nudes at home and encourages contemplation of/conversation about them is actively helping them to be looked at that way a bit less rarely.

And yes, as I said before, I'm definitely in favour of depictions of nude men too. And it is a pisser that there don't seem to be many.

Imperfectionist Tue 17-Jan-12 20:14:38

Reading through today's posts is leaving my head spinning. I'm really glad I started this thread though - it's given me so much to think about, and I've copied and pasted it for keeps.

Actually of all the posts trying to get to the bottom (ha ha) of my motives for wanting a painting of a nude woman to hang on the landing, suzikettles comment really struck a chord:

"The most empowering experience I ever had was in the changing rooms of the Sports Union at University. Back then (no idea if it's the same now), noone covered up while showering or getting changed and so for the first time in my life I saw a range of naked women. It was a real eye opener that these women were all shapes and sizes under their clothes, all normal.

We see other women around us clothed all the time, and compare ourselves (or not), but when it comes to our naked body we often only have pictures of an idealised form to compare ourselves to. Anyway, maybe a bit OT, but I remember at the time feeling way better about my naked self.

Really, I want my daughter, and myself... and any other kids I might have in the future of either gender, to have a small variation of suzikettles' experience in those union showers. It made her feel confident in her naked self. And savvy to the myth of the ideal female figure perpetuated in the media.

So that's really my main motive. The other one is that I love the naked female form, I find it beautiful, and I find some artistic representations of it inspiring, empowering, and just... beautiful. We all find beauty in different places. I find it in many humans - men, women and children - and also in women's bodies. Not in an erotic way. I just think flesh is beautiful.

Does that sound weird? I've never tried to put that in words before.

WowOoo Wed 18-Jan-12 11:12:23

Hullgully grin. I thought it was Rafael Nadal.

As far as I can think of there are loads of male nudes. Certainly when you look at less contemporary art.

I'm glad you started this thread also. Has been very interesting. I agree, flesh is beautiful. Yes!

I had a similar experience to suzikettles in Japanese hot springs. You have to bathe unclothed and at first I hated the way the Japanese women would stare at me. Then, one wanted to stand next to me to compare how different our bodies were. Her torso was much longer and legs much shorter. Once i realised it was just curiosity at quite different body shapes I got over my self and could really relax. Never made it to a mixed onsen. That would have been too much.

Hullygully Wed 18-Jan-12 11:17:02

My dc (teens) see me and dh naked all the time. Poor them.

What are some good male ones, woo?

WowOoo Wed 18-Jan-12 13:58:15

Think some good male ones have been mentioned further up the thread like Michaelangelo sculptures, Lucian Freud and others that i forget, Hullygully.

I am too much of a scaredy cat to google 'male nude'.

The ones I found - Italian Renaissance ones - were clearly visions of what the male and female ideal was at the time. Not for this thread!

Hullygully Wed 18-Jan-12 14:48:56

No none of those are any good.

I want ordinary real men painted as live models like women are.

Or art pics similarly.

Hullygully Wed 18-Jan-12 14:49:46
WidowWadman Wed 18-Jan-12 14:57:38
Hullygully Wed 18-Jan-12 14:59:15

Oh they're great - thanks widow

WowOoo Wed 18-Jan-12 16:07:14

I never knew there was such a thing as WikiPaintings. Thanks for the link WidowWadman.

JugglingWithSnowballs Thu 19-Jan-12 00:16:09

WowOoo - those Japanese hot springs are awesome aren't they ? We lived in the northern island of Hokkaido for a year, and became connoseurs of all the natural hot springs scattered over the island. Mmmm, bliss ! smile

Hullygully Thu 19-Jan-12 08:58:51

<Japanese hot spring envy>

PosieParker Sat 21-Jan-12 15:07:53

When the artist/photographer asks for a woman to be without clothes, there is a reason. Usually to expose vulnerability, sexuality or something. It is never without reason, and therefore always exposes a woman in a patriarchal light.

VeryLittleGravitas Sat 21-Jan-12 16:15:32

Posie at the risk of kicking off another bunfight, why is celebrating sexuality patriarchal? What is wrong with exploring the sensuality or vulnerability of the human form?

OP, my favourite nudes are Rodin's Crouching Woman and Iris, Messenger of the Gods. They're very powerful, sexually charged sculptures, so probably not what you're looking for.

PosieParker Sat 21-Jan-12 16:58:37

The artist is almost always male, therefore a woman is painted for the male gaze.

TeiTetua Sat 21-Jan-12 18:08:51

It shouldn't be patriarchal to "celebrate sexuality, or explore the sensuality or vulnerability of the human form". But the trouble is, in the art we're most familiar with, it's done according to a thoroughly patriarchal view. Some of the suggestions people have made upthread have pointed out artists who've individually shown (some of them, anyway) an alternative vision, and it's worth looking at them and thinking about what they're saying and whether we enjoy it. But as far as the established patterns of art are concerned, it's passive naked women first and last.

VeryLittleGravitas Sat 21-Jan-12 19:45:56

In Classical and Renaissance Art, the nude male form was at least equally prevalent, and probably predominant. Why (and I know I'm sounding like one of the 'what about the menz' brigade) is it patriarchal objectification to depict a nude woman, but not a nude man?

Plenty of wealthy, powerful women chose to be depicted nude.

Cezanne, Durer, Gauguin, Rodin, Schiele, Klimt (and that's just off the top of my head)depicted men and women, old and young, clothed, nude. They were interested in the human form, not in some passive patriarchal ideal. David and Caravaggio idealised and sensualised the male nude. Nudity has been used as a metaphor for power, sensuality, humanity, vulnerability. It's been used to challenge our preconceptions on morality, puritanism and art. It's both lazy and reductionist to say Art = Establishment/Partiarchy IMO.

VeryLittleGravitas Sat 21-Jan-12 19:47:33

And lazy, reductionist and supremely sexist to say 'male = patriarchy'.

jasperJohns Sat 21-Jan-12 19:58:59

We have this above our bed because we love it.

charitygirl Sat 21-Jan-12 20:00:07

LRD has been spot on on this thread I think. I also 'get' what the OP is saying but in the end it still seems to come down to 'you can still be considered worth looking at even if you don't look like a model'. Big fucking woo. That's not the point of feminism.

sakura Sun 22-Jan-12 10:17:47

JOhn Berger, a bit annoying really, because he makes out as if he pulled all those ideas out of his arse. When in fact nothing there is originally his and all of his ideas, without exception, were first thought of by feminist women.

sakura Sun 22-Jan-12 10:18:41

male= patriarchy

not sexist, just true

sakura Sun 22-Jan-12 10:19:46

actually, that's another topic altogether: men stealing women's ideas (usually their wives') all the time and passing them off as their own

WidowWadman Sun 22-Jan-12 18:40:33

Hear, hear, verylittlegravitas. Incidentally went to see a William Etty exhibition today - plenty of nudes -male and female, no apparent difference in value judgement between the two.

I didn't know that, sakura, but it doesn't terribly surprise me. I was talking to someone about him and she rolled her eyes, says he is one of those people who are very inclined to do the whole 'look at me, ladies, aren't I great' thing. Despite his later attack on postmodernism, the novel he wrote that won the Booker is post-modern - I guess it worked fine while it was making his name and his money! I know this is an argument ad hominem and maybe an unfair one, but I do think we're not thinking outside the box enough.

There is a huge difference between male and female nudes in Renaissance art, IMO. The men look strong and muscled - even hyper-muscly sometimes - and a lot of the women are arching their hips, pointing their breasts at people - there is a big difference in the way they look.

I think maybe it's about what Gail Dines said - that we live in a world of images, but we aren't literate in them, we aren't taught to decode them the way we're taught to decode letters and words.

TeiTetua Mon 23-Jan-12 14:17:39

From whom did John Berger steal his ideas? I'd be interested to learn something from the original source, if it's available.

I'd like that too please! smile Or indeed any women art critics you think would be good?

TBE Mon 23-Jan-12 17:54:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I see where you're coming from, but I think if we always waited for there to be an up-and-running alternative to men telling us what they think, we'd have been waiting a very long time for feminism, right? grin

TBE Tue 24-Jan-12 00:03:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Isn't that exactly what we're doing? confused

womanonedgeoftime Thu 01-Mar-12 20:58:56

I have just stumbled on this very interesting discussion. I am an art student doing my major project and I wanted to paint myself nude for the final exhibition. I used to do life modelling when I was young and I'd like to use myself as the model esp as I am an older woman. I very much admire and respect Jenny Saville's work but I am not into ugliness. I am in my sixties/ I intend a warts and all approach, not at all idealised, but I am still worried my work might be appropriated for titillation purposes in this smart-phone internet age and I would worry about where my image would end up. I thought I could paint my body as I see it from my own eyes and then there would be interesting non-erotic angles and no identifiable head. But that poses the problem of objectification as in porn with the head left off. I seem to have entered a minefield. Does anyone have any advice.

JosephineB Fri 02-Mar-12 17:58:56

Not a painting but a sculpture: Dreaming in the bath (although if you actually did this in the bath you might drown!)

I love the curves and that she isn't presneted in a sexeee way.

BelleCurve Sat 03-Mar-12 21:12:47

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