Franck-François-Genès Chauvassaignes (French, 1831-after 1900), [Female Nude in Studio], 1856-59, Salted paper print from glass negative, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1998, 1998.338, Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Oscar Gustav Rejlander (English, born Sweden, 1813-1875), Ariadne, 1857, Albumen silver print from glass negative, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005, 2005.100.1164, Photo:The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Félix-Jacques-Antoine Moulin (French, 1800-after 1875), [Two Standing Female Nudes], ca. 1850, Daguerreotype, The Rubel Collection, Purchase, Anonymous Gift and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift,1997, 1997.382.46, Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955), [Male Nude], 1930s, Gelatin silver print, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford, Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987, © Estate of George Platt Lynes, 1987.1100.311.
Unknown Artist, French, [Standing Female Nude], ca. 1856, Salted paper print from a glass negative, Purchase, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds; Joseph Pulitzer Bequest; Edwynn Houk and Hans P. Kraus Jr., Alfred Stieglitz Society, Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Anonymous, Adam R. Rose and Peter R. McQuillan, Joseph M. Cohen, Susan and Thomas Dunn, Kurtz Family Foundation,, W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg, and Christian Keesee Charitable Trust Gifts; and Funds from various donors, 2012, 2012.61, Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
Naked before the Camera
March 27-September 9, 2012
Since the beginning of art and in every medium, depicting the human body has been among the artist's greatest challenges and supreme achievements, as can so easily be seen by Museum visitors walking through the galleries of Greek and Roman statuary, African and Oceanic art, Old Master paintings, or Indian sculpture. Tapping veins of mythology, carnal desire, hero worship, and aesthetic pleasure, depictions of the nude have also triggered impassioned discussions of sin and sexuality, cultural identity, and canons of beauty. Controversies are often aroused even more intensely when the artist's chosen medium is photography, with its accuracy and specificity — when a real person stood naked before the camera — rather than traditional media where more generalized and idealized forms prevail.
In the medium's early days — particularly in France, where Victorian notions of propriety held less sway than in England and America, and where life drawing was a central part of artistic training — photographs proved to be a cheap and easy substitute for the live model. While serving painters and sculptors, many nineteenth-century photographic nudes were also intended as works of art in their own right. Still others bore the title "artist's study" merely to evade government censors and legitimize images that were, in fact, more likely intended to stir a gentleman's loins than to enhance his aesthetic endeavors. Outside the realms of art and erotica, photographic nudes were made to aid the study of anatomy, movement, forensics, and ethnography.
In 20th-century art, the body became a vehicle for surreal and modernist manipulation and for intimate odes to beauty or poems to a muse. Beginning with the sexual revolution of the 1960s, nudity and its representation took on new meanings — as declarations of freedom from societal strictures, as assertions of individual identity, as explorations of sexuality and gender roles, and as responses to AIDS.
Naked before the Camera surveys the history of this subject and examines some of the motivations and meanings that underlie its expression.
Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890–1976 Paris), Arm, ca. 1935, Gelatin silver print, Ford Motor Company, Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell,1987, © 2012 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris, 1987.1100.24.
Mark Morrisroe (American, 1959-1989), [Two Men in Silhouette], ca. 1987, Gelatin silver print, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2009, © The Estate of Mark Morrisroe (Ringier Collection) at Fotomuseum Winterthur, 2009.353.
Eugène Durieu (French, 1800-1874), [Seated Female Nude], 1853-54, Albumen silver print from glass negative, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Henry R. Kravis Gift, 2005, 2005.100.41. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Charles Alphonse Marlé (French, 1821–after 1867), [Standing Male Nude], ca. 1855, Salted paper print from paper negative, Purchase, Ezra Mack Gift and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1991, 1991.1075, Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Charles-Albert Arnoux Bertall (French, Paris 1820-1882 Paris), [Turkish Woman, 18 Years Old, Born in Pitesci (Romania)], 1881, Cyanotype from glass negative, Purchase, Saundra B. Lane Gift, 2009, 2009.34, Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Nadar (French, Paris 1820 - 1910 Paris), [Standing Female Nude], 1860-61, Salted paper print from glass negative, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1991, 1991.1174, Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.