Exposed: Art and the Naked Body

Exhibition dates: 4 January to 27 March 2011

For most of us, the question 'what's the difference between a naked body and a nude?' is puzzling, and the difference hard to articulate.

In a famous definition, the art historian Kenneth Clark suggested that: 'To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word 'nude' on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenceless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body: the body re-formed. In fact, the word was forced into our vocabulary by critics of the early eighteenth century to persuade the artless islanders that, in countries where painting and sculpture were practiced and valued as they should be, the naked human body was the central subject of art.'. (The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, 1956)

The exhibition brings together 57 naked and nude works (and there is indeed a difference) from the collection of the Hon. Roddy Meagher, from the Power Collection, and from the University Art Collection. It also includes selected Greek pottery with imagery of naked male figures as well as a life-size early 19th century French anatomical model of a naked woman, intriguingly posed as the Medici Venus.

Exhibition curator: Michael Turner