Notes on “The Naked Portrait”

They invite us to respond to them in terms of our everyday experience; to consider them in the context of art history; and interpret them as signs in wider currents in society. The nude is not something we look at comfortably.
Sometimes compare the body to our own.
“I think the naked human body brings up so many intense an important psychological issues in all of us it is at times both vulnerable and strangely threatening when stripped of its façade mask persona and signs which clothing provides us with. So a lot of my work attempts to explore the complicated feelings that we all have when encountering the naked human body our feelings of delight shame amusement embarrassment or indifference.” Melanie Manchott p.11

What constitutes a naked portrait? Portraits have tended to depict the sitters public self, but nakedness is a private affair how do you combine the two to create a naked portrait? A portrait is about the particular identity of the sitter whereas the nude is potentially there to be objectified the difference between naked and nude.

Leon Kossoff “the model lapses into moments of unselfconsciousness when something more intimate or unforced is glimpsed” p.16

Look up Peter Hujar – Nan Golden on Hujar “He was a magician he hypnotised his subjects. He never forced exposure, he seduced people to want to reveal all to him…” p.17

The implied nudity of bust portraiture.

Malcolm Bradbury’s fictive Howard Kirk “we are all right there in front of the entire audience of the universe in a state of exposure, we are all nude and available.” Well this is describing sociological thinking it is also particularly apt in this day of the Internet where we are both fearful yet exploit the freedom of nudity.

Modern portraiture has removed the symbols that we used to use to decode a portrait and all we’re left with is just the sitter themselves.We are asked to find some hidden clue to their character from the flat surface of the photograph.

“the natural is set against the artificial; the masks we assume in the social arena are set against what we see as the real self beneath the façade of ordinary life” p.23

The naked portrait is all about the physical exterior as opposed to the spirit within. It is unique. When you have removed the cultural trappings of clothing the new form thus revealed is a truer representation of the self.

Arthur Danto “nude goes with beauty as naked goes with shame… nakedness is the natural metaphor for vulnerability”

Lucien Freud:- background of a shabby artists studio. Sitter have left their domestic comfort zone to come and expose their naked form for the painter (and therefore us the viewer). Gets ideas from watching people…therefore a more naturalistic ‘pose’ may be available once the sitter has lost interest of the artist watching them – chance to drop Barthes’ posed self which we all put on for the camera. Freud allows sitters to relax as they wish – he disregards composition.

The nude (photograph) always comes with connotations of a sexuality between artist and model. “posing nude for an artist ‘was considered and immoral and reprehensible act’ in 17thC Netherlands and only prostitutes would have exposed themselves to public scrutiny” p.41  – have things really changed? Does not the same feeling still hold true today to a greater or lesser extent?

Stieglitz “a portrait would be a photographic diary” p.42

Christopher Wood’s Nude Boy In A Bedroom 1930 – ‘overtly erotic…post-coital…mutual sexual attraction’ p.44

“Nakedness becomes a role what even the costume that the artist has chosen to adopt for particular purposes” p86. “, because we have an internalised a notion of portraiture as capturing the self through the representation of bodily externals. Such an expectation can be manipulated by the artist but also subverted” p88

Has feminism released the male from the shackles of patriarchy? Can he relax in the knowledge he no longer needs to live up to some unrealistic ideal? Can he now accept and play with his masculinity? Or does the nude male as non-adonis just prove how powerful the patriarch still is? “ I do not need to subscribe to some absurdist ideal…I have a penis and that is my weapon and power”

Do I even need to mention the female artists that have long been re-representing their own form in order to take back control of the male gaze? Surely this should be well known and taken for granted.

Jemima Stehli strip series

The artists that could be accused of voyeurism or ‘abusing’ the sitters

Melanie Manchot Security series shows up the the machismo for the façade it is

Hammer M. The Naked Portrait, (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland Press, 2007)

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