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The Naked Nude

Frances Borzello


The story of the nude in art in our times, told by a popular art historian with a rare gift for sharing her passions and ideas

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The representation of the nude in art remained for many centuries a victory of fiction over fact. Beautiful, handsome, flawless – its great success was to distance the unclothed body from any uncomfortably explicit taint of sexuality, eroticism or imperfection. In this newly updated study, Frances Borzello contrasts the civilized, sanitized, perfected nude of Kenneth Clark’s classic, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form (1956), with today’s depictions. Grittier and more subtle, depicting variously gendered bodies, the new nude asks awkward questions and behaves provocatively. It is a very naked nude, created to deal with the issues and contradictions that surround the body in our time.

Borzello explores the role of the nude in 20th- and 21st-century art, looking at the work of a wide range of international artists creating contemporary nudes. The story begins with a tale of life, death and resurrection – an investigation into how and why the nude has survived and flourished in an art world that prematurely announced its demise. Subsequent chapters take a thematic approach, focusing in turn on Body art and Performance art, the new perspectives of women artists, the nude in painting, portraiture and sculpture, and in its most extreme and graphic expressions that intentionally push the boundaries of both art and our comfort zone. The final chapter illustrates radical developments in art and culture over the last decade, focusing in particular on artworks by women, trans artists and artists of colour. Borzello links these works to their art-historical and political predecessors, demonstrating the unending capacity of the nude to disrupt traditional hierarchies and gender categories in life and art.

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'A thoughtful, highly intelligent book, tracking the newly frank, newly naked nude'
RA Magazine

'Titillating, embarrassing and sometimes outright disgusting: here we find art holding a mirror up to our troublesome human nature'

'A fascinating, often humorous overview of our obsession with the naked body'
Daily Telegraph

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps

Size: 22.9 x 15.2 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Illustrations: 126

Publication date: 18 August 2022

ISBN: 9780500296677

Contents List

Introduction: The Recycled Nude
1. The Nude: Its Life, Death and Resurrection
2. Body Art: The Journey into Nakedness
3. The Changing Room: Female Perspectives
4. Forgive me, I’m a Painter
5. The Naked Portrait
6. After Rodin, Is There Anything Left To Say?
7. Going to Extremes

About the Author

Frances Borzello is an art historian and the author of several books, including A World of Our Own: Women as Artists, Seeing Ourselves: Women’s Self-Portraits and At Home: The Domestic Interior in Art, all published by Thames & Hudson.