There is the nude and then there is: the nude portrait. Nudity is something everyone experiences. I once showed work with a woman whose religious outlook meant she didn’t want me to include paintings of people in a state of undress. Yet Western Art history abounds with paintings of the nude. It is a staple of our cultural imagery – particularly the female nude.
The female nude is an assertion of life. Nearly everyone agrees: the female nude is more engaging visually than the male nude. In my experience of drawing and painting the nude – both male and female models, I prefer the female form because: it has more interesting and sensuous curves. You find more evidence of angular straight lines in the male form. All this is what makes drawing and painting the nude so challenging.
When I first started painting the nude I soon realised I was mainly interested in a model’s face. Faces are key to the idiosyncracies of an individual’s form. The face unlocks the specific proportions of a model’s body. There is absolutely no point in making an image of a nude human being unless the context of his or her nudity is animated by their facial characteristics. Hence the need for the Nude Portrait.
At one point the Daily Mail was having a bit of a spat, because of an article
(in the Observer) about a female academic who’d had someone paint a nude portrait of her. In response, the Mail asked me to paint Petronella Wyatt (Boris Johnson’s ex), in her altogether, so she could use the experience for journalism. We disagreed about knickers. I said she should remove them, because ‘nude is nude’ and why should she be treated differently to anyone else? In truth, I don’t think I was quite Alpha male enough for her. Never mind! It would have been a bit of a lark!
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