Perception and/or Reception of the Naked Child and Teenage Body in Art and the Media

Topics: Nudity, Depictions of nudity, Art Pages: 8 (2644 words) Published: August 10, 2011
Introduction and Research Question:

The topic, which, we will research, is the perception and/or reception of the naked child and teenage body in art and the media. The hypothesis that we have concluded is that ‘children and teenagers posing nude for art or in the media is seen as the cause for over-sexualization in children and teenagers’.

The naked body has been a topic of art and seen in the media as an ongoing issue. Child and teenage nudity has been featured in art from the 14th and 15th century, as well as in renaissance art, controversially through Bill Henson’s photography and in modern fashion shoots featuring teenage celebrities such as Miley Cyrus.

This research proposal will aim to find the viewpoint of University students when shown images of teenage nudity in art and the media. This issue is an important research topic as opinions have varied in society about the impact and appropriateness of teenagers featuring in these public platforms and whether this is a cause of over-sexualisation. The effect of this issue will rely on the individual opinions in society of the definition of art.

The main people being affected by this issue are the teenage population who have access to any media forms and art. The artists, such as Bill Henson are also affected as they are accused of producing inappropriate art even though they are trying to portray youth. This topic interests a large percentage of the population including teenagers, parents, media viewers and media producers.

To carry out this research a focus group will be held involving undergraduate Mass Communications and Media students from Murdoch University. The opinions, beliefs and attitudes will be gathered concerning the chosen topic to then be able to compile a research report based on the findings of the focus group.

Literature Review:

Child and adolescent nudity has taken commonplace in art throughout history, from Renaissance paintings and sculptures to religious masterpieces. As time has gone on and technology has advanced these depictions of child and teen nudity have changed, and are often frowned upon in today’s society; today photographs, artworks and media of teenagers and children naked are often challenged as being sexualized or pornographic and nudity has become a highly controversial area with regards to children.

For centuries naked children have been depicted in religious painting and scenes in the forms of cherubs, which are usually naked, posed winged toddlers. In the 14th and 15th centuries these biblical children were not seen as ‘real’ children but as symbolic religious representations of children, and this distinction was very clear. In these depictions, presenting children nude was usually seen as presenting them in the form that God had made them and was done to highlight their purity. But with the development of realism and photography this line has now become blurred. Due to the realism of photography it has lead people to believe that it is ‘real’, and as a result there is confusion between iconic symbolic children, and the general child. (Gittins 1998, 119)

During the Italian Renaissance era nude boys were often featured in paintings, especially in those with biblical themes. However, centuries later many artists began to depict paintings of nude children that carried no religious reference or context. For instance, Henry Scott Tuke painted nude adolescent boys doing everyday activities and although these paintings were not overly erotic and showed no genitalia they were a step away from the traditional biblical naked children. (Johnson 2005, 102-104) Just a century after Tuke started depicting nude children in everyday activities professional photographers presented photographic exhibitions and books of posed naked children and adolescents.

When Bill Henson’s exhibition opened on the 22nd of May 2008 many articles were written expressing the controversy and public opinions of the featured child...

References: American Psychological Association, Report of the APA Task Force. Sexualization of Girls, 2007 (accessed August 28, 2010)
D, Isaacs, T, Isaacs
Grittins, Diana. 1998. The Child in Question. London: Macmillan Press LTD
Johnson, Geraldine A
Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts. Sexualisation of children in the contemporary media, Commonwealth of Australia 2008 published June 2008. (accessed August 28, 2010)
Annotated Bibliography:
D, Isaacs, T, Isaacs. 2010. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. Is child nudity in art ever pornographic? Blackwell Publishing Inc.
This article written by David L
Grittins, Diana. 1998. The Child in Question. London: Macmillan Press LTD
This Book Focuses on children and their place in the past and in today’s society
Johnson, Geraldine A. 2005. Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press
This Book focuses on Renaissance art and the part it played in European art
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