Nudity in Art
Maybe it’s been a persistent hum for the past 9 years, or maybe it’s something that has grown louder exponentially over those same 9 years, but recently I’ve noticed more and more complaints from deviants about nude artwork on deviantART. Some say they’re sick of seeing it all the time, some say it’s inappropriate and tasteless, and others liken the nude body to outright pornography. In addition to all of these complaints, there is a secondary stream of upheaval surrounding male nudes, where the complainer is perfectly okay with female nudity but completely appalled by male nudity.
As you know (or should know), I went through a rather rigorous education involving art history. I wasn’t unique in my education, mind you, since most of my fellow design graduates underwent a similar education. Still, the fact remains that I’ve studied the shit out of artwork (I was like “Bam, take that, art history!”) and I’m fairly well informed on the topic (not brilliantly informed, but fairly well informed), and I know with utmost certainty that at one point or another in the history of mankind somebody drew or sculpted a nude figure. Amazing, but true!
Okay, let’s get down to reality, here. The people who complain about nudity are most definitely de facto fans of those artists referred to as the Old Renaissance Masters (or some variation of the title). If you’re curious who I’m referring to, just think of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who are named after some of these Masters (look, you learned something already). Coincidentally, all of the Ninja Turtles’ namesakes have drawn, painted, or sculpted nude figures before. Does that make them pornographers? Does the portrayal of nudity turn an otherwise brilliant artist into a creepy and disgusting porn distributor?
Before we answer that rhetorical question, let’s look at the artwork that some of these greats did. Artwork you’ve probably all seen but forgot about that whole naked part (arguably the best part, but I digress):
Michelangelo is most famous for a scant number of paintings and sculptures, and most average folk recognize the works but don’t know the name attached to them. For the sake of my grand argument, let’s focus on the ones where he forgot to add in pants (what a sicko, right?).
The Statue of David
David, the hero of that whale of a tale known as David vs Goliath, is portrayed in this sculpture. And yes, he’s naked as the day he was born (and look how coy he is about it). Before you cringe at that penis of his, consider that Michelangelo was a poster boy for religious propaganda. Back in the day (way way way back in the day, to be precise), Michelangelo and most other brilliant Italian Renaissance artists made their money and fame by working for the Catholic church. His work got the thumbs-up from Popes, Cardinals, and other guys who wear robes and funny hats. Do you think they’d keep hiring an artist had they thought him a pornographer? I think not.
The Sistine Chapel Ceiling
This is the ceiling of that chapel that everybody knows about but usually calls “The Sixteen Chapel.” There’s some nekkid up there on that ceiling. Specifically, there’s a naked Adam (from Adam & Eve, the hit reality show) who is outstretching his weak hand towards that of God’s, who is seconds away from touching his hand and bestowing life upon him. Remember how in the story of Adam & Eve there’s all that talk about how Eve sinned (that’s women for you) and that’s why we have to wear clothes? You can’t really paint that all-important piece of religious history but put a burlap sack on Adam, can you? Of course not. And for fuck’s sake, it’s painted on a church’s ceiling! People go to church and look up while they’re bored from the sermon, and they see nudity! If it’s good enough for church it’s certainly good enough for you prudish deviants. Oh, before I forget, here’s that penis shot I spoke about: