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What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed? The nude figure is a tradition in Western art, and has been used to express ideals of male and female beauty and other human qualities. Nude female figures called Venus figurines are found in the art of the Upper Palaeolithic, and in historical times, similar images «nude sex dating»;3;15;3;0 fertility deities. The earliest Greek sculpture, from the early Bronze Age Cycladic civilization consists mainly of stylized male figures who are presumably nude.

In the convention of heroic nudity, gods and heroes were shown nude, while ordinary mortals were less likely to be so, though athletes and warriors in combat were often depicted nude. In Ancient Greece, where the mild climate was conducive to being lightly-clothed or nude whenever convenient, and male athletes competed at religious festivals entirely nude, and celebrated the human body, it was perfectly natural for the Greeks to associate the male nude form with triumph, glory, and even moral excellence. The Greek goddess Aphrodite was a deity whom the Greeks preferred to see clothed. The Marathon Boy, 4th century BCE bronze statue, possibly by Praxiteles, National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

Hermes, possibly by Lysippos, National Archaeological Museum, Athens. So-called Venus Braschi by Praxiteles, type of the Knidian Aphrodite, Munich Glyptothek. Christian attitudes cast doubt on the value of the human body, and the Christian emphasis on chastity and celibacy further discouraged depictions of nakedness, even in the few surviving Early Medieval survivals of secular art. By the late medieval period female nudes intended to be attractive edged back into art, especially in the relatively private medium of the illuminated manuscript, and in classical contexts such as the Signs of the Zodiac and illustrations to Ovid. The rediscovery of classical culture in the Renaissance restored the nude to art. Raphael in his later years is usually credited as the first artist to consistently use female models for the drawings of female figures, rather than studio apprentices or other boys with breasts added, who were previously used.

In Baroque art, the continuing fascination with classical antiquity influenced artists to renew their approach to the nude, but with more naturalistic, less idealized depictions, perhaps more frequently working from live models. In the later Baroque or Rococo period, a more decorative and playful style emerged, exemplified by François Boucher’s Venus Consoling Love, likely commissioned by Madame Pompadour. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, classical subjects remained popular, along with nudes in historical paintings. In the later nineteenth century, academic painters continued with classical themes, but were challenged by the Impressionists. Although both the Academic tradition and Impressionists lost their cultural supremacy at the beginning of the twentieth century, the nude remained although transformed by the ideas of modernism.

The idealized Venus was replaced by the woman intimately depicted in private settings, as in the work of Egon Schiele. In the post-WWII era, Abstract Expressionism moved the center of Western art from Paris to New York City. One of the primary influences in the rise of abstraction, the critic Clement Greenberg, had supported de Kooning’s early abstract work. Other New York artists of this period retained the figure as their primary subject.