"Women are the sources of life. We are the birth givers, the nurturers, the mentors and the molders of the present and the future. Because women are so much to so many, they have been depicted on cave walls and in oil portraits. They are a favorite subject of artists in all genres since they represent beauty and bounty, mayhem and madness, courage and constancy, seduction and sex, nakedness and style. They are the world to the world" (Claudia 1). Although women are the dominant subject matter in art, they are not always represented or depicted in a positive manner. While one artist's representation of a woman may be wholesome and pure, another's may be risqué while indecently exposing the woman. Some may view the sexual depiction of women as inappropriate or unnecessary; others view it as an acceptable means of expression. "The nude as an art form and subject of art is characteristically Western in its conception" (Machotka 1). The female body, in the nude, was a common element in many eighteenth and nineteenth century works regardless of whether the tone was seductive and provocative or wholesome and motherly. The body in the nude had no tonal signals of its own, but the pose, facial expressions and setting are what determined the mood of the piece. This allowed the unclothed body to represent nothing more than the female figure in its essence. It was not until the turn of the twentieth century that the nude body suddenly became naked and figured in the natural became risqué and controversial images. With America taking strides towards a conservative era, the view of art and free expression came under scrutiny as it clashed with conservative values.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, almost all works of art depicting the nude female body were done by male artists. None-the-less, most were not intentionally geared to provoke any sexual emotion from the viewer, rather as just a natural form of self expression. The female anatomy was...
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Brenda Gilchrist. New York: Praeger, 1974.
Machotka, Pavel. The Nude: Perception and Personality. New York:
Irvington Inc., 1979.
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