Les Rêves Canadiens


Jacobs, Michael. Nude Painting. New York: Mayflower, 1979.
Jacobs explores the place in the world of art for the nude with over 100 full-colour illustrations and an authoritative text. The many examples expose the full range of reasons for the use of the nude from pornographic to spiritual.
The illustrations are beautifully reproduced with, in some cases, areas blown up to fully display the details. The text draws from many areas for comment on the use of the nude, but I found that there were no real conclusions drawn. I was not left with the feeling that Jacobs was trying to say: that the paradoxical use of the nude makes the use sometimes right and sometimes wrong, or that we should draw our own conclusions. There is a wealth of information; nonetheless, so I did find the reading to be useful especially when compared with the comments of other authors I have read.
There were many historical examples to show that: during the Middle Ages the nude was an expression of evil and death, during the Renaissance it represented idealism and sensuality, while some religious nudes displayed spiritual purity. Some of the Mannerist, Baroque, and Rococo nudes were blatantly erotic and exploitative while the majority of modern artists tend to view the nude as more of a pin-up and leave its explicit use to the advertising agency and pornographic magazines.
There is a certain amount of humour in the supposition that artists start drawing as an excuse to view nude women. This might be true, but most of the young artists I have known are fully capable of removing anybody's clothing in a drawing; and the suggestion that we look at books of art to exclusively be aroused sexually when there is so much explicit pornographic material available is not a complete conclusion. There is some truth in this last thought, but it is a more serious possibility that snobbish voyeurs might want not to be seen buying lower class pornography. I can personally say that there is nothing so sexless as sitting in a crowded room with one nude woman or man; who is only thinking of the food she/he can buy or the chiropractor she/he can afford after a long immobile sitting.
He does draw an interesting inference that we now enjoy framing the nude and its sexuality and leave it laying safely on the coffee table, so we don't have to deal with our own sexuality. This is true, I have found, for those who are all talk and no action. Unfortunately I find Mr. Jacobs, with his lack of opinion, to be part of this group.

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