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Depictions of nudity refers to visual representations of nudity in all the disciplines including the arts and sciences. Nudity is restricted in most societies, but some depiction of nudity may serve a recognized social function. Clothing also serves as a significant part of interpersonal communication, and the lack of clothing needs to have a social context. In Western societies, the three contexts that are easily recognized by a majority of individuals are art, pornography, and information or science. Any image not easily fitting into one of these categories may be misinterpreted, leading to disputes.
Nude depictions of women may be criticized by feminists as inherently voyeuristic due to the male gaze. Although not specifically anti-nudity, the feminist group Guerrilla Girls point out the prevalence of nude women on the walls of museums but the scarcity of female artists.
Nudity in art has generally reflected — with some exceptions — social standards of aesthetics and modesty/morality of their time in painting, sculpture and more recently in photography. At all times in human history, the human body has been one of the principal subjects for artists. It has been represented on prehistoric paintings and statutes and in all eras since. The male nude was more common in antiquity, especially in ancient Greece, but today the tendency is for the female nude body to be more highly regarded and represented. Since the first days of photography, the nude was a source of inspiration for those that adopted the new medium. Most of the early images have been closely guarded or surreptitiously circulated, on account of social norms of the time. Many cultures accept nudity in art even when they shun actual nudity. For example, even an art gallery which exhibits nude paintings will typically not accept nudity of a visitor.
|Goya painted La maja vestida after outrage in Spanish society over the previous Desnuda.|
Without a pretense to allegorical or mythological meaning, the painting was "the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art".
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nude or partially nude children.|
During the Italian Renaissance, nude young boys were featured in many paintings, especially those with a Christian theme. Raphael, for example, made paintings of nude putti, sometimes incorrectly identified as cherubim. Other famous examples are Amor Vincit Omnia by Caravaggio and various portraits of Jesus as a baby. Centuries later, many painters created images of nude children that carried no religious significance. For instance, Henry Scott Tuke painted nude adolescent boys doing everyday activities; his images were not overtly erotic, nor did they usually show their genitals. Otto Lohmüller became controversial for his nude paintings of young males, which often depicted genitals. Balthus and William-Adolphe Bouguereau included nude girls in many of their paintings. Some sculptures depict nude child figures. A particularly famous one is Manneken Pis in Brussels showing a nude young boy urinating into the fountain below.
Professional photographers such as Jock Sturges, Sally Mann, David Hamilton, Jacques Bourboulon, Garo Aida, and Bill Henson have made photographs of nude children and adolescents for publication in books and magazines and for public exhibition in art galleries. According to one school of thought, photographs such as these are acceptable and should be (or remain) legal since they represent the unclothed form of the children in an artistic manner, the children were not sexually abused, and the photographers obtained written permission from the parents or guardians. Opponents suggest that such works should be (or remain) banned and represent a form of child pornography, involving subjects who may have experienced psychological harm during or after their creation.
Sturges and Hamilton were both investigated following public condemnation of their work by Christian activists including Randall Terry. Several attempts to prosecute Sturges or bookseller Barnes and Noble have been dropped or thrown out of court and Sturges's work appears in many museums, including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art
There have been incidents in which snapshots taken by parents of their infant or toddler children bathing or otherwise naked were destroyed or turned over to law enforcement as child pornography. Such incidents may be examples of false allegation of child sexual abuse and the overzealous prosecution of such cases has been described in terms of a moral panic surrounding child sexual abuse and child pornography.
Without the relative freedom of the fine arts, nudity in popular culture often involves making fine distinctions between types of depictions. The most extreme form is full frontal nudity, referring to the fact that the actor or model is presented from the front and with the genitals exposed. Frequently images of nude people do not go that far and are deliberately composed, and films edited, such that in particular no genitalia are seen, as if the camera failed to see them by chance. This is sometimes called "implied nudity" as opposed to "explicit nudity." It is in popular culture that a particular image may lead to classification disputes.
On the Internet, especially on websites featuring images of well known people, the terms nude and nudity have often been used (some would say misused) to signify indecent exposure; for example, a photo of an otherwise fully clothed woman with a nipple exposed. See also: Nude celebrities on the Internet.
In modern media, images of partial and full nudity are used in advertising to draw additional attention. In the case of attractive models this attention is due to the visual pleasure the images provide; in other cases it is due to the relative rarity of images of nudity. The use of nudity in advertising tends to be carefully controlled to avoid the impression that the company whose product is being advertised is indecent or unrefined. There are also (self-imposed) limits on what advertising media such as magazines allow. The success of sexually provocative advertising is claimed in the truism "sex sells". However, responses to nudity in American advertisements have been more mixed; nudity in the advertisements of Calvin Klein, Benetton, and Abercrombie & Fitch, to name three companies, have provoked much negative as well as positive response.
An example of an advertisement featuring male full frontal nudity is one for M7 fragrance. Many magazines refused to place the ad, so there was also a version with a more modest photograph of the same model.
Nudity is occasionally presented in other media as well (often with attending controversy) such as on album covers featuring music by performers such as Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Nirvana, Blind Faith, Scorpions and Jane's Addiction. Several rock musicians have performed nude on stage, including members of Jane's Addiction, Rage Against the Machine, Green Day, Black Sabbath, Stone Temple Pilots, The Jesus Lizard, Blind Melon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, blink-182, Naked Raygun, Queens of the Stone Age, Fucked Up, Of Montreal, and The Bravery.
The provocative photo of a nude prepubescent girl on the original cover of the Virgin Killer album by the Scorpions also brought controversy. By contrast, most would consider the naked male baby shown on the cover of the Nevermind album by Nirvana to have no sexual connotation.
The portrayal of nudity in motion pictures and television has long been controversial. Full nudity has gained much wider acceptance in European cinema and television where, in contrast to their US counterparts, the audience perceive nudity and sexuality in general as less objectionable than the depiction of violence. Nudity in a sexual but non-pornographic context, however, has in many European countries remained on the fringe of what is socially acceptable for public shows, although this situation was liberalized during the later 20th century.
In the 1970s Australian soap operas Number 96 (1972-1977) and The Box (1974-1977) regularly included partial nudity. Both programs also featured occasional full frontal nudity. In the Netherlands nudity has been featured on talk shows such as Jensen! and Giel, starring Giel Beelen.
Broadcast television and most "basic cable" outlets in the United States have been more reluctant to display nudity in most cases, the exception being PBS. A few series in the 1990s, including NYPD Blue, have occasionally used partial nudity, both male and female. When broadcast on television, theatrically released films featuring nudity are usually presented with the nude scenes edited out, or the nudity is obscured in some fashion (for example digital imagery may be used to clothe nude actors). Several premium cable services such as HBO, Showtime, and more recently FX, have gained popularity for, among other things, presenting unedited films. In addition, they have produced series that do not shy away from nude scenes, including Oz, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, True Blood, and Queer as Folk (the British original was pioneering even in the more tolerant U.K.). Big Brother (TV series), which has shot in multiple countries, sometimes has nudity in the show, however, the scenes with nudity do not always air on TV.
Television soap operas have rarely shown any risqué nudity, the exception being the Procter & Gamble soap operas As the World Turns and Guiding Light which in 2005 went as far as featuring rear male nudity during lovemaking scenes. After the Janet Jackson Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy in February 2004, U.S. Federal Communications Commission commissioner Michael J. Copps stated that it was time for a crackdown on daytime television and indicated that he was reviewing whether soap operas were violating the agency's indecency prohibitions. Following this news, Guiding Light edited out nudity from an episode that had already been taped. A week later, the show's executive producer John Conboy was fired and replaced by Ellen Wheeler. All nine American network soaps began to impose an unwritten rule of avoiding any sort of risqué adult scenes.
A 1960s comedy sketch featuring English comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore admiring Cézanne's Les Grandes Baigneuses in the National Gallery humorously suggested that there must be hundreds of paintings that are not publicly displayed because the pieces of cloth did not fall in just the right places while the artist was painting them.
Models or actors appearing nude in live performances may stretch the meaning of "depictions", but the word has been used in reference to any presentation that creates a mental image. Performance art is often recorded by still photography or video that is then shown in museums, thus becoming depictions.
Performers generally have no problem with nudity in serious theatrical productions.
Nudity has been an element in performance art since before it had that name. "Cut Piece" by Yoko Ono was first performed in 1964 (then known as a "happening"). Audience members were requested to come on stage and begin cutting away her clothing until she was naked. Several contemporary performance artists include their own nude bodies or other performers in their work. In 1992, Spencer Tunick began documenting live nudes in public locations in New York through video and photographs, which have since grown to events around the world with hundreds of volunteer participants.
Depictions of nudity, sometime sexuality explicit, are allowed in the context of sex education; as appropriate for the age of the students.
An early use of photography was the work of Eadweard Muybridge, whose study of animal locomotion included human movement.
This tentatively called "ethnographic" nudity has appeared both in serious research works on ethnography and anthropology, as well as in commercial documentaries and in the National Geographic magazine in the United States. In some cases, media outlets may show nudity which occurs in a "natural" or spontaneous setting in news programs or documentaries, while blurring out or censoring the nudity in a dramatic work. The ethnographic focus provided an exceptional framework for photographers to depict peoples whose nudity was, or still is, acceptable within the mores, or within certain specific settings, of their traditional culture.
Detractors of ethnographic nudity often dismiss it as mere colonial gaze preserved as "ethnographic" imagery. However, the works of some ethnographic painters and photographers, like Irving Penn, Casimir Zagourski, Hugo Bernatzik and Leni Riefenstahl, have received worldwide acclaim for preserving what is perceived as a documentation of the dying mores of "paradises" subject to the onslaught of average modernity.