People feel that nude art is something that should be hidden away or avoided. However a majority of modern artist continue to use nudity in their work to express gender in an obscure and surreal approach. The traditional western style is an expression of ideals and stereotypes of how a body should look and how women and men are seen in typical gender forms. We see men as large, bold or strong and women as small, delicate and venerable. This raises the question ‘Are men and women portrayed differently when it comes to nude art?’
Since opening in March 2012 the award winning Jerwood Gallery, located in Hastings’ old town, runs a short-term exhibit programme which showcases a variety of modern and contemporary artwork. As of becoming a tourist attraction for the town, it has created opportunity for local artist to reveal their work to a wider audience. Local artist Chantal Joffe currently has her series ‘Beside The Seaside’ on display. Her work consists of uniquely quirky portrait paintings that capture people in a truthful and humorous way.
Nude men in art form are presented in a more vulgar manor as opposed to nude females figures, which are often shown in a delicate and more elegant way. The painting named ‘Naked Dan, 2010’ by Chantal Joffe. shows a man in vulgar yet natural way.
I asked members of the public viewing the image if they thought that genders are presented differently in nude art and the paintings in question. “Women are often shown covering themselves, whereas men are completely exposed”. In reference to ‘Naked Dan’ one woman said “It’s quite vulgar really, almost comical. The way he’s modeled is uncaring and free which is to be admired”. When asked about how she felt about the work being displayed in the gallery and being one of the first images to be seen upon entering the exhibit she responded “It’s shocking really. I don’t like that it is so openly displayed and don’t approve that it is visible for children. I mean it’s a detailed and realistic naked man.”
‘The Bather, 1926’ by Christopher Wood is another image being displayed at the gallery. While looking at Christopher Woods’ painting, one man, claimed it was “overly sexualised, she isn’t completely naked and I supposed that adds a sense of mystery. The red swim suit is a passionate colour and the image is very desirable rather than natural”.
Female nude art is seen as being provocative as of how they are positioned in the image. The images have a sense of insecurity through hiding themselves, but a completely nude figure would be viewed as being over sexualised by its audiences. Male, although exposing isn’t seen in the same way, it is amusing or visually vulgar. It is undeniable that men and women are viewed differently when it comes to nude art with the men being objects of humour or power and women being shown as insecure and delicate, both points proved in the paintings by both artists.