R. GRODEN STUDIO
A sensitive view of the nude
by R. Groden
When is the nude just a "naked" being? The answer is that nakedness is a state of simply being unclothed, whereas nudeness is a state in which the body is transformed into a different sphere of recognition -- and, it is to be hoped, on a higher plane.
Artists have always understood the value of studying and recreating the nude, and a great deal of the world's art would not exist without it. Historically the nude has been the most serious of all subjects in art.
A semirecumbent female by François Boucher recalls an earlier Renaissance artist, Correggio. Boucher, a creator of venuses for Mme de Pompadour, whose very economic and political existence resided in the fact that she was the King's mistress, searched for some formula that would epitomize the nude female.
By way of comparison, Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, one of the great painters of the Consulate and Napoleon's Empire, had seen French painting through it's transition from the Louis sensualism to the tightfisted Neo-Classicism of Jacques- Louis David. His paintings illustrate the problems of transition between the easy naturalism of the Age of Reason and Pleasure, and the frigidity of Revived Grecian Idealism.
Ingres possessed no such ambiguity. For him, the body was a vessel for form, externalized and perfected by the line that could contain it as a deliberate and concise thought. The continuous unbroken line that described his female forms soon became an end in itself, as it almost does in his late work. Ingres had a brilliant color sense and an ultralinear stylization placing him in both past and future of the century he dominated. Throughout the Nineteenth Century, the nude as subject rose in importance. Degas, like his close friends the Impressionists, sought to capture momentary and fleeting forms. Unlike the Impressionists, he also felt the necessity to organize and carefully plan his compositions.
By the time the century turned, a group of painters and sculptors had decided that the nude could be a symbol for inner thoughts, either sacred or profane, with the ability to hold dark secrets or reveal other worlds. By 1906, the pendulum had swung back, with Picasso and the New Age of Cubism.
Just six years later, in 1912, the human form had been so liberated by artists such as Picasso that Amedeo Modigliani could feel free to depict a woman as though she were a flat cutout, fixed to the sheet only by virtue of strong outline--arbitrary, summary and decorative.
With these varied approaches to the nude, we realize that in depicting the human body we attempt to take all the individual parts we know firsthand, and organize them into an integrated whole that is immediately comprehensible and yet symbolic of creativity offers a promise of sanity to humans. The respect for human beings.
Every artist has drawn nudes as a student. In his own studio for practice or in preparation for larger works, and to produce finished works of art. A seasoned collector is expert at distinguishing spontaneity, finish and accuracy accordingly.
R. Groden ©