21 Apr 2018

The Female Nude: Problematic in the Age of #MeToo

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Eric Fischl, Bad Boy, 1981 and spectator.

The Cut reports that “Paintings of naked women, usually by clothed men, are suddenly sitting very uncomfortably on gallery walls.”

Male artists wonder whether they can work with the female form, while the world questions what their intentions were in the first place. …

The western art canon is in no small part a parade of famous female nudes, from Praxiteles’s Aphrodite of Knidos from the fourth century B.C. to Manet’s 19th-century prostitutes (notably the recumbent, unamused Olympia) to John Currin’s Playboy-meets-Fragonard women — and almost all of them have been made by white male artists. …

The question of the moment has become: Is it still an artistically justifiable pursuit for a man to paint a naked woman?

To answer this question, I reached out to a number of prominent male artists known for doing just that (as well as for painting nude men). But most of them — including Currin, Carroll Dunham, Jeff Koons, and the young Mexican-American painter Alex Becerra (some of whose nudes are drawn from escort ads) — declined to talk about their work’s relationship to the current social climate. Presumably, they worried about unintentionally saying the wrong thing that would then echo endlessly across social media, damaging their reputations. For emerging artists, there is the fear of a possibly career-derailing gestalt fail. “I’ve been in conversations with other [male artists], and they were just like, ‘I quit working with the figure. I’m only doing abstract work, because I don’t want to touch it,’ ” says Marty Schnapf while walking me through his recent solo show “Fissures in the Fold” at Wilding Cran Gallery in Los Angeles. He thinks we could be living through “a new Victorian age” — or at least that’s his explanation for the mixed responses he’s received for his gender-confusing neo-Cubist nudes, which play out sexualized fantasies in hotel rooms and surrealist swimming-pool dreamscapes, and evoke Joan Semmel’s erotic works from the 1970s. …

In New York, there was the viral petition asking that the Metropolitan Museum remove or contextualize the Balthus painting Thérèse Dreaming, depicting an adolescent girl leg up, her eyes closed: “The Met is, perhaps unintentionally, supporting voyeurism and the objectification of children.” While the museum didn’t acquiesce, Balthus’s reputation was already on the decline. Industry experts reminded me that, whereas in the boundary-pushing ’70s, a Balthus was considered to add a sophisticatedly perverse note to one’s collection, in recent years, he’s regarded as a little skeevy.


And we used to think the Victorians were annoyingly moralistic!

6 Feedbacks on "The Female Nude: Problematic in the Age of #MeToo"

Seattle Sam

I think it’s okay as long as it’s a man who thinks he’s a woman.


There are two sides to this issue. On the one side men are obsessed with the female body; to look at and to touch. Simple as that, mother nature/god made us that way so we would procreate. On the other side “most” women quickly come to enjoy man’s gaze and desire. It is power and sexual excitement. The literally “love” showing a little skin and a lot of skin. The reason young women bare their breasts on public for the pleasure of the men in the crowd is the sexual pleasure and fulfillment/excitement it gives them and second of course it creates a desire in the men to approach them and try to seduce/date them which is what they are there for.

If it was not for that second factor, the women’s desire to show their body, there would be far fewer female nude paintings.


Nudes are not necessarily problematic, but how the nude is, uh, presented can be. I did enough life drawing class to know that we were interested in the human form. Crotch shots, however, are about the crotch. The painting in the photo is problematic. It maybe fairly good style in terms of the way the paper painted, but it’s the oil on canvas equivalent of Hustler.

I used to work for a interior designer with no moral compass. His clients were wealthy perverts. One house we worked on was a designer pretty much around hosting orgies. I still don’t understand what some of the “features” of the house were about. He had a HUGE painting of a female crotch in the master bedroom. Probably about an eight foot by eight foot canvas of a very large female crotch. Ugh

By the way, Balthus is crap. His “art” is/was con game. At least the Eric Fischer thing here has good form, style, etc. Balthus had none of that.


Lee, please share who was the client with the crotch mural in the bedroom? Likely a person who is well known.


I can’t remember his name. He worked in finance, I think, on the crazy coast. The poor neighbors of the orgy house — they’d been there for years. The grandkid called it “the naked lady house.” I think they sold the house. This was up in whine country.


When I first got married we usually had sex with 69 first till she came. Then I would make love to here. She would lay down like in that picture totally satisfied and I would kneel there just looking at her. Very erotic. Not all crotch shots are bad.


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