Lucian Freud created an entirely new genre in the depiction of the human figure. His ‘naked portraits’ present subjects as pure animal forms not dissimilar from inanimate still life objects, while at the same time rendering painted flesh with an extraordinary, penetrating humanity. ‘A Not So Still Life’ presents Freud’s late large paintings ‘Naked portrait in a red chair’ (1999) and ‘David and Eli’ (2003–4). By turns clinical and intimate, stark and tender, the works resulted from weeks of intense sitting by and scrutiny of the artist’s subjects. While the woman in the first portrait goes unnamed, the second picture identifies Freud’s two most constant companions: his long-time studio assistant and friend David Dawson, and his whippet Eli. Both paintings evidence Freud’s almost ruthless process of observation and forensic reckoning of the human body. “Living people interest me far more than anything else,” Freud stated. “I’m really interested in them as animals. The one thing about human animals is their individuality: liking to work from them naked is part of that reason, because I can see more.” Continue Reading
“Do women have to be naked to get into U.S museums?” When the feminist group Guerilla Girls asked this question in 1989, they pointed to an obvious but oddly glossed-over fact: history of art is full of naked people, most of them women. And if it weren’t for an art-historical tradition of viewing the unclothed figure as artfully, aesthetically, unerotically “nude”—rather than plain naked—the lofty halls of the Met would fall afoul of obscenity laws. Actually, why hasn’t it? On the occasion of No Clothes, Grace Coddington’s curated auction of nudes, we explore the difference between naked and nude and take a look at the history of the unclothed body.