The image of the nude is timeless, fundamental and universal. It has the ability to incite intense interest, yearning and even repulsion in the viewer. We often find that images of the nude reflect upon society’s attitudes towards beauty and gender issues. These issues are strongly highlighted in Jenny Saville’s nakedly confrontational ‘Propped’, which encompasses of a heavy-handed naked woman sitting on a stool. Her artwork forces the viewer to think of the female nude as not only an object, but also as a subject. Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ also addresses the issues of beauty and gender. In the artwork, Venus appears to be emerging from the sea, standing in a shell. Symbolising female desirability, the Early Renaissance painting is in accordance to the myth of her ‘birth’ as a fully grown woman.
The shape and form in Propped is clearly drastically distorted. Saville has used foreshortening as a way to emphasise the weight and size of the figures body, most noticeably the small scale of the head, which looks incredibly small in contrast to the rest of the figure. Foreshortening and tone help to create a distinctive look of the figures legs and knees. There are various patches of light tones included across the chest area and knees, and the extreme distortion makes them look vast and almost bruised. There is limited colour used in the painting, mainly very natural pigments such as white, cream and light pink. Black has been used for the stool in the centre of the image, and coffee and olive colours can be seen in the background. There is also a text that can be seen scratched into the paint in mirror writing, running across and down the figures body which reads; ‘If we continue to speak in this sameness – speak as men have spoken for centuries, we will fail each other again’. Saville has painted the artwork to make a point; to make the viewer realise that fat is a feminist issue. The angle of view in the artwork is low, and the observer is made to look up at...
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