Drawings, paintings, photography, and particularly sculptures are often nudes.
1. Intrinsic beauty
Nude people are beautiful. Part of it is sexual, but it’s much more than just that.
Michelangelo’s David is a beautiful man, and a sculpture of such world fame that it’s become a icon of nudity in art. Michelangelo’s sculpting, and the David’s body are enjoyed by everyone. Its one of the few famous things that are more impressive and powerful in person than in the thousands of photos I had seen. It would not have such enduring and universal emotional impact if he wore cloths which put him in biblical or historical context. Even the sling he holds is cleverly hidden so as not not distract the focus from the body of David and the skills of the sculptor.
If someone were to carve David a fig leaf,or shift the right hand to hide his exposed penis it would change him from being nude, to being naked. Our attention would be drawn to his shame of being naked.
It’s probably some sort of evolutionary advantage to feel a sense of comfort, safety, and “beauty” when we look at other humans.
It’s also related to a more general idea of intrinsic beauty for certain types of forms. Things that are rounded, curvy forms such as airplanes , streamlined cars, and dolphins are beautiful shapes in a very abstract and emotional way even though the forms are determined by hard constraints imposed by physics.
It’s interesting to compare a Cubist nude such as Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” to a nude relief I sculpted called “Uplook”.
Duchamp’s painting is about the figure’s movement over time. We sense the body, but the Cubist abstraction releases our minds to ponder time and action.
My sculpture “Uplook” has certain abstract rhythm from the play of light on it’s surface. I used the abstract highlights to create the composition, then added the challenge of creating a believable nudes in mid relief.
A well sculpted tree will look good, even if it’s proportions, texture, and gesture are wrong.
This was my first attempt at sculpting a forest. It’s probably horribly wrong but to my eye it looks fine.
I expect that someone more in touch with a redwood forest could spot all the errors.
We are all experts in nude humans. We see at least one very day of our lives. A drawing with arms that are just a bit too short, or muscles placed wrong will look awkward even if we aren’t sure why. Skilled Artists find pleasure in meeting the challenge.
Currently in my studio I am working on a composition with a woman kneeling on a stone wall. I start all figurative sculptures as nudes so I’m sure the underlying structure is correct. Cloths are easily added later and look more real if they relate to the body beneath. I’m not sure if this will ultimately be nude or not, but starting as nude help me to get it right.
A nude figure becomes timeless. Cloths are a strong indicator of social status, historical period, occupation, wealth, and other personal attributes which distract a viewer from the form and gesture of a sculpture.
We can enjoy Classical sculpture of figures in togas, but Classical nudes are mostly released from a historical context and can be seen as more fundamental forms or ideas. Looking at family photos it’s usually possible to determine the date to within a couple of years based on fashion, hairstyles, or other cues such as cars or architecture in the photo. A sculptural nude on a pedestal could be from any time in the past, present, or future. Art experts use their knowledge of materials, artistic styles, fabrication techniques, and X-rays of the internal structure to attempt to date unknown sculptures.
I had fun sculpting the skirt, but this sort of skirt puts the figure in a box of expectations held by the viewer. We place her in a cultural and historic setting based on our unconscious assumptions about the proper place for a woman with exposed breasts and a grass skirt. A modern designer skirt would change the entire mood of the work. If I decide to remove the skirt the viewer will need to look deeper into the figure to read the story it tells.
The stone wall also gives clues to who she is and makes us wonder why she is there, and what’s over the wall. Removing the context created by the wall would also make her more nude and therefore more timeless and universal.
For centuries Artists have used plaster casts as practice subjects for drawing ,painting, and sculpture. I don’t think many modern artists would want to practice by drawing a Roman , or Victorian, but nude figures are always modern.
Eric Haggin “Eric The Sculptor”
925 336-6462 << voice or text
Body Casting art at www.BodyCast.Me