In order to answer this question, the exhibition sets out to compare works of different eras and techniques, around great themes that have shaped the image of the male body for over two centuries. We must distinguish above all between nudity and the nude: a body simply without clothes, that causes embarrassment with its lack of modesty, is different from the radiant vision of a body restructured and idealised by the artist. Although this distinction can be qualified, it highlights the positive, uninhibited approach to the nude in western art since the Classical Period. Prior to this, however, the female body was regarded less favourably than its more structured, more muscular male counterpart. Since the Renaissance, the male nude had been accorded more importance: the man as a universal being became a synonym for Mankind, and his body was established as the ideal human form, as was already the case in Greco-Roman art. Examples of this interpretation abound in the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage: Adam existed before Eve, who was no more than his copy and the origin of sin. And yet, until the middle of the 20th century, the sexual organ was the source of a certain embarrassment, whether shrunken or well hidden beneath strategically placed drapery, thong or scabbard.
The Male Nude and Modernity
Early History of the Male Nude
Perhaps the history of the nude in art, which traditionally begins with the heroic male of Greek art of the classical period 6th - 5th century BC , should be pushed back to around , BC. This is the date of the tiny statuette, probably designed to be held in the hand, popularly called the Willendorf Venus and depicting a corpulent female. Like much early art, she was almost certainly a fertility symbol of some kind.
If you require assistance in clearing permission we will be pleased to help you. In addition, we work with the owner of the image to clear permission. If you wish to reproduce this image, please inform us so we can clear permission for you.
Their different approaches towards the male figure influenced their renderings, ranging from representations of strength, power and virility to those of beauty, vulnerability and sexual intrigue. The first major culture to celebrate the naked male body was that of ancient Greece , where male sexual relationships were common practice. From 7th-century BC kouroi to 5th-century contrapposto , the male nude revered a physical form, symbolizing virility, strength and power. From proud depictions which characterized the Antiquity, the male nude became awkward in the culture of the middle ages , with depictions becoming slight and slender. The nudity itself was associated with Original Sin and questions of im morality, turning into something to be embarrassed about. The realistic bodily structure continued to be valued all through the 18th century. At the same time, the sexually-charged gaze into an intimate all-male enclave began to emerge. The advent of the century avant-garde movements like Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism brought a different perspective of the body. As the naked body was represented either fragmented into pieces, as tormented, adorned in rainbow colors, or with body parts replaced with objects, it became practically impossible to pinpoint a specific style of nude.