We’re kicking off the week with a very interesting Design Discussion post… today’s topic is nude art. It’s a controversial subject (like the majority of our Design Discussions), and I wanted to share my perspective and hear about yours, when it comes to displaying nude artwork in your home. My friend Marynn asked the question on Instagram a few weeks ago and I thought, “what an interesting topic!” Of course I wasn’t in the majority for her post because I do like nude art (if you hadn’t guessed), but I still loved reading everyone’s preferences. I’m not allowed to link our busts from the Tuesday Made shop on Instagram because they contain nudity, which I totally respect. It just goes to show- nude art is a unique topic that usually evokes strong opinions. I’ve found that people either love it or hate it. That’s the awesome thing about art though- it’s in the eye of the beholder. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to make anyone uncomfortable with this post! Hopefully it’s a fun read that shares a unique perspective. Click through for my thoughts, if you’re interested…
Growing up in a tiny rural town, I really didn’t see nude artwork until visiting a museum on a field trip in high school. I had always been interested in art of all kinds and didn’t particularly think anything of the nude sculptures at the art museum during that trip. They were neither here nor there. As I became more into fine art and eventually went off to college to study just that, I really began to love and admire classical works: sculptural pieces, gesture and figure drawings, as well as blind contours. Anything that depicted form in an interesting way.
My first college drawing class started out amazing- each class we’d spend 3 hours sketching still life scenes of inanimate objects, looking into the mirror for self portraits, or working on blind contour drawings to expand our skills. Halfway through the semester, I showed up to drawing class and in the center of the room was a model in a robe. The drawing timer started, the model dropped his robe, and the class began sketching. My small town, immature, young self was probably blushing and pretty embarrassed, but eventually I learned that I really enjoyed sketching portraits of live models (nude or clothed). It became a class activity I actually looked forward to.
The following year of college, I delved into the art history side of things (and actually got a BA in art history because my minor turned into a major passion). I had the incredible opportunity to study in the fine art mecca of the world… Florence, Italy. This was the rooftop of the apartment I lived in (below). I was totally surrounded by the best art & architecture. It was really a dream come true, that also helped shape my creativity, aesthetic, and design mindset.
I got to see works from the greats in person, and became fully entranced with beautiful and historic pieces from the past. It was difficult to believe that only a year prior, looking at my first nude model in that drawing class was so… shocking. Ha! I guess this is kind of turning into a “coming of age” story. The early twenties are impressionable years, don’t you agree? During my time in Italy, I observed hundreds of pieces of nude art (the below image is from a weekend trip to Pompeii), and continued with my art history courses once I returned to design school in the states.
I absolutely loved my time spent studying and practicing fine art- that will always be such a cherished chapter in my life. I know most people don’t get to experience art in that type of setting, but it really did change the way I looked at it- nude art in particular. It was ubiquitous in museums, Europe, and my overall college education experience.
In addition to the beauty and classical or historic nature of nude figure drawings or sculptural art, it really taught me to look at my own body from a different perspective. It seemed those portraits, paintings, and sculptures I spent four years analyzing looked nothing like the editorial magazines I grew up reading. The bodies were portrayed in a different way- and better yet, I believed they were all beautiful! It is art, after all. Seeing plush figures and curvy bottoms in art felt refreshing to me. Of course there is also the (literally) chiseled abs on certain greek gods and gladiators, but for many of the female subjects I studied in my art history classes, it was nice to see soft forms.
If we’re being honest here, like many young ladies- I struggled with my body image during my late teens and early 20s. It wasn’t until looking at art, of all things, that I came to realize my body was pretty great after all. For me personally, nude art helped me learn to love my body and normalize it. It taught me that all bodies are worthy of being art- no matter the shape or size… which I think is pretty incredible!
Ok, I’ll stop rambling now and share some recent favorites below. Use the numbered links below the collage to shop- I’m sorry, the art is not clickable in this one…
01: gestural figures // 02: female nude art // 03: nude study // 04: figure drawing female nude // 05: 1940s vintage nude // 06: male torso bust // 07: female torso bust // 08: nude original // 09: vintage pair of nudes // 10: water color of nude woman // 11: aphrodite sculpture // 12: nude figure // 13: female figure bust // 14: 1960s vintage nude
I totally get that full frontal nudity in art can be a lot. I think there are plenty of ways to display nude art in ways that match your comfort level or taste- some nude gestural drawings don’t even show any of the bits- not even a butt crack in sight (typing that almost made me spew my coffee, so maybe I’m still immature after all). Haha! You get what I’m saying though… display whatever type of art makes you happy and is best for your home and its inhabitants.
My mom once asked me why I had so many nude pieces of art throughout our home (she’s not a fan). At the time I didn’t really know what to say. I like it?? It’s beautiful to me? It reminds me of classical and historic works I love. It reminds me that my body is special. That question really made me think. My mother and I don’t have art or design in common, and that’s ok… we love each other anyway. My point here is to say- nude art makes some people uncomfortable and that’s totally fine. If you’re not into this type of art, find other pieces you absolutely love in different subject matters. If you are into figure drawings that may or may not be nude, bring those beauties into your home and enjoy them. You do you! If you like this type of art and other people in your home do not- you could also try a more abstract figure, or watercolor piece. There are also plenty of gorgeous clothed gesture or line drawings to be found.
At the end of the day, find art that makes you feel something. Bring artwork into your home you think is beautiful. Install a painting or sculpture that reminds you of something (a memory, a person, a place, etc), makes you smile, or brings you happiness.
These days, I enjoy thrifting for this type of art and sourcing creative and tasteful nudes or figure drawings and sculptural pieces for our shop. Once we’re able to travel again, I’m looking forward to more museum visits and exploring new places to absorb whatever type of art and architecture is prevalent there.
This post is getting long, so I’m going to wrap it up. If you’ve missed any of my previous Design Discussion posts, I’ll link them below. I enjoy chatting about all sorts of controversial design topics! It’s pretty awesome to hear unique perspectives that might shape my design opinion in the future…
- Hardwoods in the Kitchen
- Countertop Space
- Color Blocking
- TV Over the Fireplace
- Stacked vs Side-by-Side Laundry Units
- Furniture Arranged Against a Wall
- Shelf Styling with Books
- Wool Rugs in the Bathroom
For me, nude art reminds me of my art history days jaunting from museums to cathedrals analyzing incredible work (a once-in-a-lifetime experience)– all while learning to love my body, just the way it is. It makes me feel traveled, it connects me to artists in an intimate way, and I like the aesthetic. I’m so interested to know if you like and appreciate nude art, or if it isn’t your cup of tea! No hard feelings or judgement either way- I know it’s not for everyone. Regardless, I hope this was a fun and different type of design discussion (apologies if it got too personal) that helps you determine what type of art you enjoy and why. Let’s all have a wonderful week!