Nude Art

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Nude, we all are! In our bathrooms, occasionally in our bedrooms, and when a celebrity is, everyone wants to shoot that precious moment by virtue of our hi-tech devices, we were not blessed with in ancient period when the only way to incarcerate those luxurious moments was either painting or sculpture. In the beginning, they were gods, goddesses and angles, shown naked in paintings as symbols of grace, beauty and innocence, but later on during and after renaissance, those were pretty women and handsome men painted undress under the strong wave of humanism, which ultimately supported freedom of expression. That work was simply called ‘Nude’ in  art ; the most popular as well as controversial it remained in all ages.

Nudes were hard to accept openly in society but always had a strong appeal for viewers to give them a glance in public while, a detailed look in solitude. Texture and glow of skin, masterly crafted muscles, bones under the tender or strong flesh, skilled the canvas a depth and atmosphere so close to our imagination.

Basically nudes are the concrete form of creator’s thoughts and emotions under a certain instinct of wearing nothing but skin. There was no dress in the beginning of human history and might be so towards the end of ‘human history’. But anatomical study has always been a challenge to be adept in, for painters and sculptors. Religiously nudes were subject to be free from any sensuality, on the contrary, they were taken as an expression of purity and had ‘nothing to do with’ attitude towards mortal life. Saints, goddesses and other sacred figures were above all social and ethical parameters but as soon as normal human beings were painted naked just to show them as humans, it was outlawed by righteous society. Manet’s ‘Lunch on the Grass’ is one example of this dichotomy.

When Raphael (1483-1520) painted ‘THE THREE GRACES’ and David (1460-1523) produced ‘TRIPTYCH OF JEAN DES TROMPES, they promoted the religious thoughts and concepts, while Delacroix’s famous ‘LIBERTY LEADING THE PEOPLE’ was a symbol of pride and honor one could feel for one’s home land although the lady holding the flag was exposed at the top.

Then comes Manet’s (1832-1883) ‘LUNCHEON THE GRASS’ showing a naked women sitting with two gentlemen fully and formally dressed, looking directly into the eyes of the viewer. This painting was really hard to digest for the French society at that time, despite the fact that they were quite interactive with traditional ‘Nudes’, whereas ‘OLYMPIA’ by the same artist was bold enough to get appreciation for the impressionists.

Goya’s (1746-1828) ‘NUDE MAJA’ and Dega’s (1834-1880) key-hole nudes of bathing women got applause and popularity in their respective times that helped this  art  to get the status of serious  art  rather than scramble to sensuous feelings alone! Especially Dega’s crafty figures well-knit with softness of pastels became a byword of technique and thought. In the 20th century, Cubism, owing to its sharp and misty combination in shape and concept, struck  art  by means of pinching edges and overlapped images. Nude painting got more space to articulate itself, as the obscure and indistinct ambiance gave artists the opportunity to avoid meticulous anatomical details. This style helped modern artists to enlarge the conceptual and subjective aspect of their paintings rather than objective reality related to humanism. Pablo Picasso was one of those artists, who not only gave nudes a new touch, but also caused the whole expression an indirect approach in terms of technique for certain meandering subjects.

There was another stream of nude paintings that was neither sacred nor arty, but purely sensuous! That  art  was in demand for dance floors, casinos, brothel houses and strip clubs and other red- lit dark alleys. it could not get any place in serious  art  but these paintings did get different and innovative ideas applied on sensuously twitching figures. That painting also required perfection in skill as far as anatomical problems were concerned.

In Pakistan, where even normal  art  has been a taboo since its beginning, what one could think about nude  art ? Must it exist here! It does actually! Pakistan has got some good and adroit painters who could fashion human anatomy with their skill and imagination and could furnish the canvass up to the level of ‘a treat to watch’. Talism-e-Hoshruba by Ustad Alla Bakhsh has got tinges of semi exposed human bodies in a mystical atmosphere. Sadqain’s paintings give you an idea about bodies of active, working human beings that do reflect painter’s skill.

Shakir Ali, we could say, was the first one to paint abstract nudes as real  art  in Pakistan. His strong contours, dark bold colors and conceptual attitude, truly distinguish him from his contemporaries. Shakir experimented in showing women’s body in a hidden and abstract approach. Afterward, Saeed Akhter, with his realistic style, contributed valiantly in this prohibited  art  form while Jami Naqsh sharpened the edges of his ideas along with nude figures accompanied by pigeons. However, the mastery of this genre would always remain with Colin David, whose work is not only to look at, but it is to feel that reality which you listen only in whispers.

What and how a person thinks and perceive, is rendered in  art ! Therefore, the expression in  art , has been close to nature where sometimes, norms and values could not be considered.

Bernard Berenson (1897) said, “Not what man knows but what man feels concerns  art . All else is science.”


Source by Nadeem Alam

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