The art of the scandalous nude

The nude as a concept has made waves on the digital sea ever since the infamous 2007 nude leak, when Disney stars like Vanessa Hudgens became the victim of a scandalous violation of privacy. But this sensationalised pop culture phenomenon was birthed by classical art dating back to before Christ; the human body has always been both celebrated and scorned in its natural state in the forms as varied as sculpture and Instagram art accounts. There are many scandalous examples to choose from, but these are some striking ones:

Praxiteles, Aphrodite

Female nudity was a faux pas in Ancient Greek art— in contrast from the frequent male nudes, even the goddess of love was usually draped in loose robes. This was the first life-size representation of the naked female form. Another version made for the temple was purposefully clothed.  

Francisco Goya, The Nude Maja

As above, there was both a clothed version of this painting (The Clothed Maja) and this nude one. It was a groundbreaking non-religious full female nude, and garnered controversy due to the ‘explicit’ depiction of pubic hair. Unlike most renaissance female nudes, this one maintains teasing eye contact with the viewer, daring them to… well, it’s open to interpretation. As the Catholic church had banned the display of artistic nudes, it was never displayed during Goya’s lifetime, which is honestly a let-down.  

Georgia O’Keeffe

Okay, O’Keefe doesn’t paint nudes, but how could I not mention her iconic, year-8-confusing vaginal flower imagery? Sensual and ahead of their time, these were extreme close-ups of flowers which called you out on how you chose to interpret them. Are they flowers or vaginas? I guess it depends on how you look at them; how you see them could indicate what you’re likely to see on an inkblot test. However, she denied this gendered reading, and perhaps insisting on this cliched interpretation is an injustice to her work and talent. The similarity could just be a happy accident.

“O’Keeffe was very assertive as a woman but was always very keen to assert that she was an important artist, not just an important female artist.” -Borchardt-Hume


This instagram account features illustrations of women and men in various shades of blue, who are pictured with deliberately obvious body hair, often in strip clubs satirising male customers and tinder profiles. The message is often one of sexual liberation and #freethenipple.


Another modern, digital vision, this artist uses frantic brush strokes to create beautiful images with themes of femininity, erotica, and chaotic nude representations. I couldn’t find a name or any other information for this talented enigma.


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