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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


Beautiful, handsome, flawless – the nude in art remained for many centuries a victory of fiction over fact. In this study, Frances Borzello – a skilled communicator with an ability to make us want to look at art and think anew about it – has much to say about modern art and about our contemporary and historical fixation with the body and the nude.

The book memorably contrasts the civilized, sanitized, perfected artistic nude of Kenneth Clark’s classic, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, with today’s depictions: raw, uncomfortable, both disturbing and intriguing. Grittier and more subtle, both male and female, 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. Her fascinating text is complemented by a profusion of well-chosen, unusual and beautifully reproduced illustrations.

The story begins with an investigation into how and why the nude has survived and flourished in an art world that prematurely announced its demise. Subsequent chapters focus in turn on body art, performance art, new perspectives of women artists, and the nude in painting, portraiture, sculpture – and its most extreme and graphic expressions that intentionally push the boundaries of both art and our comfort zone.

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'Borzello brilliantly updates the evasively genteel distinction between naked and nude made by Kenneth Clark in 1956 … Borzello’s illustrations are titillating, embarrassing and sometimes outright disgusting: here we find art holding a mirror up to our troublesome human nature'

Further Details


Format: Hardback

Size: 28.0 x 21.5 cm

Extent: 192 pp

Illustrations: 130

Publication date: 8 October 2012

ISBN: 9780500238929

Contents List

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

About the Author

Frances Borzello has specialized in the social history of art since obtaining her PhD at the University of London.