A 500-year history of reclining nudes

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Before the sixteenth century women were painted demurely clad in sheer gowns (below). Boticelli progressed a long way in his painting of the Birth of Venus (right) although he portrayed her very discretely. A reclining nude would have been considered going too far.

The Birth of Venus 1485 (detail)

Allessandro Boticelli

Venus and Mars

Venus and Mars 1483

However, from 1500, painters gained enough acceptance to paint reclining nudes as long as they were associated with classical themes. Most were of Venus. It took another 400 years for the paintings to escape this classical license and even then was often painful for the artist. Manet's Olympia was roundly condemned even as late as 1863. The following paintings are in time sequence.

The markets for painting.

Nude turned away
Giorgione - Sleeping Venus 1510
Bernardino Licinio - Venus turned away 1510
Lucas Cranach the Elder - Nymph & Fountain 1518
Palma Vecchio - Venus & Cupid in a Landscape 1524
Tiziano Vecellio (Titian) - Venus 1538
Rubens - Angelica and the Hermit 1626 - 1628
Sleeping Venus and Cupid
Nicholas Poussin - Sleeping Venus and Ciupid 1630

Rembrandt - Danae 1636

Venus at her toilet
Nude on a sofa
Diego Velasquez -Venus at her Mirror 1644
Francoise Boucher - Louise O'Murphy 1750
Francisco de Goya - La Maja Desnuda 1797-1800
Francisco de Goya - La Maja vestida 1800-1803
The above paintings perhaps illustrate the public approach to nudes, if they were not in a classic or allegorical setting. At the turn of the 18th century Goya was forced to clothe the painting of his lover in the face of public outcry.
La Grande Odalisque
Ingres - La Grande Odalisque - 1814
Ingres - Venus with her slave circa 1820
Eugene Delacroix - Odalisque - 1845
Gustave Courbet - 1858
Manet - Olympia
Gustave Courbet - 1858
Manet - Olympia 1863
Lawrence Alma-Tadema - The Tepidarium 1881
Pierre Auguste Renoir - about 1890
Arhtur Hacker
Pierre Auguste Renoir - 1890
Arthur Hacker - Playa and Philomenon 1897
Toulouse-Lautrec nude
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec - recling nude 1897 7
Gustave Brisgand (1880-1950)- reclining nude
At the beginning of the 20th century paintings of women became franker, The painters painted their models as they saw them and the inhibition against the mons suddenly disappeared. After all, Greek pottery had shown the penis before Christ and Michaelangelo's David had a penis back in 1500. Women never had a mons until Courbets's suppressed painting at the end of the 19th century.
Schiele nude
Zinaida Serebriakova 1884 - 1967 - nude
Egon Schiele - Female nude 1910
Egon Schiele
Amedeo Modigliani - 1917
Egon Schiele - reclining woman 1917
Nude recling on Divan
Tamara de Limpicka - 1925
Eugene Delacroix - nude reclining ona divan 1926
Blue Nude
nude in armchair
Matisse - the Blue Nude 1928
Pablo Picasso - nude in armchair 1929
Delvaux nymphs
Paul Delvaux - Nymphs 1938
Dimitri I Shmelev - Nude Study 1957
Voronov nu
Higgins nude
Voronov - nu 1968
Douglas Higgins (UK) - circa 1990
After 2000 it appears that artists are torn between those returning to the classical muse and those inventing new minimalist styles. We need to wait a little longer to see what this century brings.
Petta Longstaff
Nude 6
David Furr - Venus (Petta Longstaff) 2004
Bich Ngoc (Vietnam) Nude 6 2005
Sue Seidler-May
Sue Seidler-May (Australia) - 2005
Nagornov - Sleeping Venus 2005

Venus at her Mirror

a photograph after the Velazquez Venus

Painted in workshops for the tourist (China) 2005
André Maier - Venus at her Mirror
The story isn't finished of course so it will be interesting to note what emerges in the future when the art of painting competes with digital graphics and photography. Furthermore, we may even be a population who is not content to wander around art galleries.
Linda Denver DAM
Linda - Denver Art Museum (photo by John Graham)
The earliest of these paintings are in public domain by virtue of being over 100-years old, while those from 1900 on are shown as non-commercial publciity for their painters.

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