But how far does the history of Western art, composed for the most part by and for men, really lend itself to subversive interpretations? As she points out, all we see is the sexual trunk: head, feet and hands, the thinking and doing parts, are missing. The practice of covering up the genitalia of nudes of both sexes became widespread in 16th-century Europe. She joins conservator Eoghan Daltun, who is prising the fig leaf off the genitals of a plaster cast of a Greek male nude. Unfortunately, as she discovers, the penis was destroyed in the process of attaching the fig leaf. All that remains is a chipped pair of testicles: a metaphor, perhaps, for the effects of Christianity upon eros. To make this point, she joins a hen party at a life drawing class, where the model is a naked man. There are a few excited murmurs when the model, Julian, steps onto the platform and exposes himself to the female participants — and on national television. So far, so decorous.
The nude figure is a tradition in Western art , and has been used to express ideals of male and female beauty and other human qualities. It was a central preoccupation of Ancient Greek art , and after a semi-dormant period in the Middle Ages returned to a central position in Western art with the Renaissance. Athletes, dancers, and warriors are depicted to express human energy and life, and nudes in various poses may express basic or complex emotions such as pathos. Unclothed figures often also play a part in other types of art, such as history painting , including allegorical and religious art , portraiture , or the decorative arts. Nude female figures called Venus figurines are found in the art of the Upper Palaeolithic , and in historical times, similar images represent fertility deities. Other significant non-Western traditions of depicting nudes come from India , and Japan, but the nude does not form an important aspect of Chinese art. Temple sculptures and cave paintings, some very explicit, are part of the Hindu tradition of the value of sexuality, and as in many warm climates partial or complete nudity was common in everyday life.
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It shows the artist looking wise beyond his years, already adept at a suavely brushed surface redolent of Manet, Ingres and Degas. Vallotton, who wrote criticism for a newspaper in Lausanne, Switzerland where he was born in , gave Rousseau an early laudatory review. By this point in the show, it becomes clear why Vallotton is not considered a first-rate painter. Perhaps he was excessively skilled with too many options at his fingertips. The variety here sometimes resembles a group show, or a solo of some extra-early postmodern artist who simply played the field. Their daring black and white compositions depict some of the pleasures, but more often skewer the hypocrisies and inequities of Parisian life. Vallotton did not see life as full of happy endings. He made his first woodblock prints in , inspired by the innovations of Japanese artists, eliminating their rich colors while exploiting their practice of cutting with rather than against the grain. It facilitated the curving shapes and lines basic to his formal wit.
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