Art nude: An imperfect form
The article deals with art nude, described by Lynda Nead as the “icon of Western culture, a symbol of civilization and accomplishment”. Poprzęcka discusses the ancient Greek origins of representing the naked human body. She emphasizes that despite modern feminist criticism, initially, it was the male rather than the female body which was depicted. But already at that early stage the representations were idealized, showing strong and healthy individuals, devoid of imperfections. Medieval art also did not abstain from nudity (baptism in the river Jordan; the Crucifixion; Adam and Eve; the martyrs; resurrection of the dead at the Last Judgement). The final formation of the modern art nude as an artistic genre took place during the Renaissance (15th–16th c.). This process was assisted by the revival of ancient art ideals, and by studies on human anatomy, so diligently undertaken by painters and sculptors of the day (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian). The success of art nude was due not only to the preferences of the public, but also to the modern system of training of painters and sculptors, which devoted much attention to studies of anatomy and depiction of elements of the human body and models. Widespread popularity of art nude did not go along with high artistic quality. Poprzęcka notes a certain degree of its trivialisation already during mannerism, and complete decadence in the 19th century. Art nude underwent important changes during the 1960s. In the domain of theoretical discussions these changes were related to criticism of the traditional female nude as product of the oppressive paternalistic society. Simultaneously, artistic representations executed by women increasingly tended to expose ageing, sickly, and imperfect bodies. According to some artists and art critics, this turning away from the traditional canon of beauty is intended as a method of seeking the truth about women and their bodies.