‘Bather Arranging her Hair’ - Renoir
Every nude is striking. Renoir’s more so than most.
But what makes this—or Praxitiles’ Aphrodite of last night—a nude rather than just being naked?
Kenneth Clark used to say that nakedness is you or me getting out of the bath, whereas a nude is altogether more stylised. Nudes are “ideal forms of art,” he maintained, while naked bodies are just their embarrassing, real-life counterparts. But Kenneth Clark was a prude.
William Blake chose his words carefully when he said “Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed.” He meant that in every sense. An artist sees all of reality naked, and then paints it. The nude is one very important, and delightful, part of that.