The Nude as Art

I do drawings and paintings, but I have made a separate site for nude photography. I am writing an Artist’s Statement for that website ([noparse][/noparse]), which is basically to say why I do this type of work. It is about a page, so rather than reproduce it, I will summarize (but would appreciate having some feedback on the full text).

In European art, there has been a tradition that recognizes the Nude as a distinct form of art that celebrates something valuable, the human form as both beautiful and expressive. Paintings and sculpture is no problem for most people, but the photograph is another matter. There is a Fine Art Photography tradition, but it is less universally accepted that other media, and now the internet is flooded with images that are every conceivable variation on (1) well composed, expressive art, (2) pornography (no composition, no expression except sex), (3) erotic art (intended to arouse, but well composed and expressive of more than just sex).

Does it matter that I think of my photographic work as being #1, and no different than my drawings and paintings in artistic value? There are some that do not see any distinction, and think of the old master paintings of odalisques as nothing more than high class porn that exploited the women of that era. I, on the other hand was a sometimes naked hippy, and was drawing nudes in art class when we were also skinny dipping in the fountains in DC while protesting the Vietnam war. Does my personal history and intentions in creating these images make any difference? Does it matter that fine art models are quite ordinary in appearance (beautiful, but not glamorous) and conveyed to me their sense of appreciation for the opportunity to work with me in the creation of these images?

You may be addressing a problem that doesn’t really exist. As you say, the concept of the nude as art form, separate from the erotic, has existed for millenia. Just because photography is one of the chosen forms for pornography doesn’t mean people can’t make the distinction between it and photographic art, much as the distinction between literature and erotic stories can easily be made.

Furthermore, most people judge art intrinsically, not taking the artist’s background or personality into account. The day may come when people buy your work not because of its inherent appeal, but because you are its author. Than would mean that you’re famous enough to stop producing anything of value any more :slight_smile:

I would change “Paintings and sculpture is no problem for most people” to “Nude Paintings and sculptures are not problems to most people”. Perhaps substitute offensive or objectionable in place of problems.

Your initial explanation of the Fine Arts photography tradition muddies the water a bit, I think. You should remind people that you are specifically referring to nude images and not all images. Similarly, your comment about images on the internet is a bit muddy – you seem to be on the edge of suggesting that all or most images on the internet are intended to be (or pretend to be) fine art. Also, your definition of ‘pornography’ is closer to the legal definition of ‘obscenity’, which is material for sexual arousal with no other artistic merit and offensive to community standards. With the definition you use, those images are not fine art. And perhaps that’s what you mean to say, but you don’t actually say it. Personally, I don’t see a realistic distinction between pornography and eroticism in still images, unless you want to get into a discussion of penetration, which I don’t think that you want to do.

Lastly, you talk about the traditions of European art. First of all, you should specify fine art. Second, why mention “European” at all, unless you want to compare to some other (American?) tradition? I would just leave “European” out altogether unless you want to make an explicit comparison.

Are your drawings and paintings also of nudes? Presumably not all of them. Is all your photography of nudes? If you have a mixture of nudes and non-nudes in all these media, why are they on different websites? IMO they should be on the same site, or you are reinforcing the attitude you’re complaining about. Also, IMO, if your only nudes are in photos, they should STILL be on the same site, unless you have some kind of marketing scheme that argues against this. Do you expect these to be commercial sites that will generate significant income, or do you want them to be a showcase of your artistry?