Posts Tagged ‘nude male body


Exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe’ at the Grand Palais, Paris

Exhibition dates: 26th March – 13th July 2014

Grand Palais
Galerie sud-est, entrée avenue Winston Churchill


Many thankx to the Grand Palais for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



“I have boundless admiration for the naked body. I worship it.”

“I was a Catholic boy, I went to church every Sunday. A church has a certain magic and mystery for a child. It still shows in how I arrange things. It’s always little altars.”

“I am looking for perfection in form. I do that with portraits. I do it with cocks. I do it with flowers.”

Robert Mapplethorpe



Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Grand Palais, Paris 2014

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Grand Palais, Paris 2014

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Grand Palais, Paris 2014

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Grand Palais, Paris 2014


Installation views of the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe at the Grand Palais, Paris 2014
© Didier Plowy pour la Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais, Paris 2014



The exhibition will present over 250 works making it one of the largest retrospective shows for this artist ever held in a museum. It will cover Mapplethorpe’s entire career as a photographer, from the Polaroids of the early 1970s to the portraits from the late 1980s, touching on his sculptural nudes and still lifes, and sadomasochism.

The focus on his two muses Patti Smith and Lisa Lyon explores the theme of women and femininity and reveals a less known aspect of the photographer’s work. The challenge of this exhibition is to show that Mapplethorpe is a great classical artist, who addressed issues in art using photography as he might have used sculpture. It also puts Mapplethorpe’s art into the context of the New York art scene in the 1970-1980s.

In his interview with Janet Kardon in 1987, Mapplethorpe explained that photography in the 1970s was the perfect medium for a fast-paced time. He did not really choose photography; in a way it was photography that chose him. Later in the same interview, he said “If I had been born one hundred or two hundred years ago, I might have been a sculptor, but photography is a very quick way to see, to make a sculpture. Lisa Lyon reminded me of Michelangelo’s subjects, because he did muscular women.”

Mapplethorpe positioned himself from the outset as an Artist, with a capital A. Unlike Helmut Newton, who as a teenager already wanted to be a fashion photographer, and imposed his vision of the world and photography, making it an art in its own right, Robert Mapplethorpe is a sculptor at heart, a plastic artist driven by the question of the body and its sexuality and obsessed by the search for perfect form.

Like Man Ray, Mapplethorpe wanted to be “a creator of images” rather than a photographer, “a poet” rather than a documentarist. In the catalogue for the Milan exhibition which compared the two artists, Bruno Cora recalls the parallels in their lives and works: “Before becoming masterly photographers, Man Ray and Mapplethorpe had both been painters and sculptors, creators of objects; they both lived in Brooklyn in New York; they both made portraits of the intellectuals of their time; and they were both incisive explorers of the nude form, its sculptural qualities and the energy emanating from it.”

Mapplethorpe was an artist before being a photographer. His images come from a pictorial culture in which we find Titian (The Flaying of Marsyas / Dominick and Elliot), David, Dali, and even the great artists of the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo, Piero della Francesca, Bernini …

As in Huysmans’s novel, the exhibition is a countdown for this other dandy from the end of another world, Robert Mapplethorpe. It starts with his self-portrait with a skull-headed cane, the image of a young man already old, the tragedy of a life cut down in full flight by AIDS. But his almost royal final posture, as if beyond death, still (just) alive but already in the posterity of his oeuvre, seems to beckon us with a gesture of his pastoral cane to follow him into the world that he constructed in twenty years of photography. The exhibition continues with statuary, a dominant theme in Mapplethorpe’s last years, photos of statues of the gods in his personal pantheon: Eros, of course, and Hermes … The artist always said he used photography to make sculptures, and he ended his oeuvre with photographs of sculptures. His nudes were already photographic sculptures.

Works are not created just anywhere. To be fully appreciated, Mapplethorpe’s art must be put into the socio-cultural context of arty New York in the 1970s and 80s, and the underground gay culture there at that time. Two permeable and equally radical worlds. To take the measure of the libertarian explosion of the time, we need to watch Flesh, Warhol’s film with Joe Dalessandro, which narrates 24 hours in the life of a young New York male prostitute. To understand the violence and passion of gay sexuality for young New Yorkers fighting for freedom in a repressive period, we must read Edmund White’s The Beautiful Room is Empty, the story of a young gay in the years of riots and demonstrations and extreme emancipation; and Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance (1978), to plunge into the sexual experiments of Fire Island in the 1970s.

Mapplethorpe is hailed as one of the world’s greatest photographers and the exhibition aims to give a broad view of his work.

Press release from the Grand Palais website


Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Milton Moore' 1981


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Milton Moore
50.8 x 40.6cm / 50.8 x 40.6cm
Silver gelatin prints
New York, Fondation Robert Mapplethorpe
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission


Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Milton Moore' (detail) 1981


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Milton Moore (detail)
50.8 x 40.6cm
Silver gelatin print
New York, Fondation Robert Mapplethorpe
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission


Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Ken Moody' 1983


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Ken Moody
50.8 x 40.6cm
Silver gelatin print
New York, Fondation Robert Mapplethorpe
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission



Introductory text

Robert Mapplethorpe was an artist with an obsessive quest for aesthetic perfection.

A sculptor at heart, and in his imagination, he wanted “people to see [his] works first as art and second as photography.”1 An admirer of Michelangelo, Mapplethorpe championed the classical ideal – revised and reworked for the libertarian New York of the 1970s – and explored sophisticated printing techniques to create unique works and mixed compositions, which he framed in unusual ways.

Like the novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans, this exhibition has been organised “À rebours” [against the nap] and examines the work of another dandy, living at the end of another world. It opens with Mapplethorpe’s self-portrait with the skull-head cane: the image of a young man, already old, tragically cut down in the prime of life by AIDS, it also reveals how the master of the realm of shadows – photography – gave free rein to his imagination. Like a modern day Orpheus, beyond death, he seems alive – although only just – yet already in the afterlife of his work, beckoning us with his satanic cane to follow him into the underworld of his life, in search of his desire.

“Photography and sexuality have a lot in common,” explains Mapplethorpe. “Both are question marks, and that’s precisely what excites me most in life.”2 Exploring the photography of the body, he pushed it to the limits of pornography, perhaps like no other artist before him. The desire we see in these images – often the photographer’s own desire – also reflects life in New York, as lived by some, in the 1970s and 80s, at the height of the sexual liberation movement. “I’m trying to record the moment I’m living in and where I’m living, which happens to be in New York. I am trying to pick up on the madness and give it some order.”3

This retrospective of Mapplethorpe’s work – the first in France since he passed away – features some two hundred and fifty images exploring a range of themes. They cover every aspect of Mapplethorpe’s art – bronze bodies and flesh sculptures, geometric and choreographic, still lives and anatomical details, bodies as flowers and flowers as bodies, court portraiture, night photography, and eroticism, soft and hard – interspersed with self-portraiture in all its forms. The works from the photographer’s early career, which close the exhibition, reveal how the path taken by his art was already mapped out in his first Polaroids. The sign of a great artist.

1. Inge Biondi, “The Yin and the Yang of Robert Mapplethorpe,” in The Print Collector’s Newsletter, New York, January 1979, p. 11
2. Mark Thompson, “Mapplethorpe,” in The Advocate, Atlanta, 24 July 1980
3. Sarah Kent, “Mapplethorpe,” in Time Out, London, 3-9 November 1983


Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Thomas' 1987


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
61 x 50.8cm
Silver gelatin print
New York, Fondation Robert Mapplethorpe
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission


Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Calla Lily' 1986


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Calla Lily
92.7 x 92.7cm
Silver gelatin print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission


Robert Mapplethorpe. 'The Sluggard' (Le Paresseux) 1988


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
The Sluggard (Le Paresseux)
61 x 50.8cm
Silver gelatin print
New York, Fondation Robert Mapplethorpe
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission


Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Self-portrait (Autoportrait)' 1988


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-portrait (Autoportrait)
61 x 50.8cm
Platinum print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission



Grand Palais, Galeries Nationales
3, Avenue du Général Eisenhower
75008 Paris

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 10pm
Monday and Sunday 10am – 8pm
Closed every Tuesday

Grand Palais website


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Exhibition: ‘The Naked Man’ at Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 23rd March – 30th June 2013


Many thankx to the Ludwig Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.




Tibor Gyenis. 'Hommage á Ana Mendieta' 1999


Tibor Gyenis (Hungarian, b. 1970)
Hommage á Ana Mendieta
From the series Hommage á Ana Mendieta
Courtesy of the Artist


Spencer Tunick. 'Düsseldorf 5 (Museum Kunst Palast)' 2006


Spencer Tunick (American, b. 1967)
Düsseldorf 5 (Museum Kunst Palast)
Courtesy Stephane Janssen


Károly Halász. 'Body-builder in Renaissance manner' 2000

Károly Halász. 'Body-builder in Renaissance manner' 2000

Károly Halász. 'Body-builder in Renaissance manner' 2000

Károly Halász. 'Body-builder in Renaissance manner' 2000


Károly Halász (Hungarian, 1946-2016)
Body-builder in Renaissance manner
Courtesy of the Artist


'The Naked Man', exhibition views

'The Naked Man', exhibition views

'The Naked Man', exhibition views

'The Naked Man', exhibition views


The Naked Man, exhibition views, Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest, 2013
© Photo: György Darabos



While the naked female body or nude is an accepted theme in art, the unclothed male body has appeared over the centuries, ever since classical antiquity, solely through depictions of the hero or martyr. Today however, the naked male body, provocatively revealed in contemporary art, is far from a heroic figure. The exhibition The Naked Man examines the ways in which the appearance of the naked male body has changed and been transformed over the last century. The changes in the male image from the end of the nineteenth century till today are traced through eight thematic areas.

The chronological starting point of the exhibition is the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when not even the traditional values of masculinity were spared by the crisis of identity, as manifested in the work of such artists of fin de siècle Vienna such as Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. For modern artists, the stripped down, naked male body was a bearer of revelation, self-knowledge and renewal. From this starting point, the exhibition follows the naked man through 20th and 21st century history, presenting challenges to the hegemonic model of male identity through the work of close to 100 artists, from questioning traditional male role models to the search for alternatives, from facing up to weakness and fragility to exploring the desiring gaze, body worship and the erotic pose.

In the depiction of the undressed male body there are also clues as to the changing social role of men, the formation of male identity, which is inseparable from both changes occurring in society and the workings of power. Power defines the gaze, which for centuries has been in the possession of men, while women have been merely the objects of the gaze. This division of roles between men and women in society was held to mirror the eternal or ‘natural’ order. The exhibition reassigns the roles, since the object of the gaze is no longer women, but men. How far this signifies the loss, sacrifice or transfer of possession of the gaze can be considered in depth with the help of thematically organised artworks.

The stripped down male body is defined by particular points of crisis. In that sense, the very spirit of the life reform movement that appeared at the turn of the century was one in which the naked male body was seen as a harmonious part of nature and a symbol of the desire to renew society. The naked man appears completely differently in relation to homosexuality. The homoerotic gaze eroticised the male body and examined it as an object of desire. The influence of feminism can be felt in artistic approaches that involve putting on make-up, the hiding of the sexual organ, as well as its ‘relocation’ or symbolic loss, all ways in which male artists have called attention to the arbitrariness of the designation of gender boundaries. Indefinable sexual identity, which is adaptive to the role of the opposite sex, is a revolutionary affront to the conventional expectations of traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. Heroic, hard masculinity, the healthy, body radiating physical strength, is a particularly important symbol for dictatorships. The disciplined body that conforms to the rules symbolises dominance over bodies. It is opposite to the anti-hero, the defenceless, vulnerable male body, that of the man who deliberately suffers pain in the desire to get back his lost power.

The man who belongs to a sexual or racial minority, along with the chubby or ageing male, is forced out of public space and confined to the private sphere, cut off from the connection of the male body to power. The body symbolises power, which can only truly be possessed if its nakedness is not completely revealed, if the sexual organ remains hidden. One of the last taboos of the cultural sphere of Christianity is the sight of the male sexual organ. After all this, what remains an interesting question is whether the female gaze can be an instrument of power. In addition, how do we view the nude studies that were once an indispensable part of academic artistic training, along with earlier and more recent attempts at depicting naked male models? How do we see the relation between artist and model in the self-portrait, in which the artist uses his own naked body as a terrain for the merciless exploration of the self?

The new masculinity does not view cultural roles as naturally given, but rather revolts against them, smashing taboos and unveiling fetishes. In the region of Central and Eastern Europe the body of the naked man is enriched with further layers of significance. In the art of former socialist countries, the naked male body was seen as an expression of enslavement to the patriarchal system, while gender roles are also worthy of examination in this context. After the collapse of the system, the changed geopolitical order, old and new desires and power relations were inscribed onto the body, shaping the new masculinity.

Press release from the Ludwig Museum website


Herbert List. 'Young Arab with foxtail lilies, Hammamet, Tunisia' 1935


Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Young Arab with foxtail lilies, Hammamet, Tunisia
Münchner Stadtmuseum


Jimmy Caruso. 'Arnold Schwarzenegger' 1978


Jimmy Caruso
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Münchner Stadtmuseum


McDermott & McGough. 'Tattoo Man in Repose' 1891/1991


McDermott & McGough
Tattoo Man in Repose
© McDermott & McGough
Courtesy Galerie Jerome de Noirmont


Rudolf Koppitz. 'In the lap of Nature' Self portrait c. 1923


Rudolf Koppitz (Austrian, 1884-1936)
In the lap of Nature
Self portrait
c. 1923
Münchener Stadtmuseum / Sammlung Fotografie


Richard Avedon. 'Rudolf Nureyev' 1961


Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Rudolf Nureyev
© The Richard Avedon Foundation
Courtesy Stephane Janssen


Pierre et Gilles. 'Apolló' 2005


Pierre et Gilles
Model: Jean-Christophe Blin
© Pierre et Gilles
Courtesy Galerie Jerome de Noirmont


Pierre et Gilles. 'The Death of Adonis' 1999


Pierre et Gilles
The Death of Adonis
Private collection, Paris


David LaChapelle. 'Celebrity Gleam' 2002


David LaChapelle (American, b. 1963)
Celebrity Gleam
Courtesy of Galerie Thomas, Munich



Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
1095 Budapest Komor Marcell Street 1
Hungary 06 1 555-3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00 – 20.00
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website


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Exhibition: ‘nude men: from 1800 to the present day’ at the Leopold Museum, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 19th October 2012 – 4th March 2013

Curators: Tobias G. Natter and Elisabeth Leopold



Martin Ferdinand Quadal. 'Nude Life Class at the Vienna Art Academy in the St.-Anna-Gebäude' 1787


Martin Ferdinand Quadal (Moravian-Austrian, 1736-1811)
Nude Life Class at the Vienna Art Academy in the St.-Anna-Gebäude
© Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna


Joseph-Désiré Court (French, 1797-1865) 'Death of Hippolytus' 1825


Joseph-Désiré Court (French, 1797-1865)
Death of Hippolytus
© Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération


François-Léon Benouville. 'Achills Zorn' 1847


François-Léon Benouville (French, 1821-1859)
Achills Zorn
© Musée Fabre de Montpellier



“When we stop and think about it, we all are naked underneath our clothes.”

(Heinrich Heine, Travel Pictures, 1826)



A great posting. I used to have a print of Querelle by Andy Warhol on my wall when I was at university in London aged 17 years old – that and We Two Boys Together Clinging by David Hockney. My favourite in this posting is the painting Seated Youth (morning) by Austrian expressionist painter Anton Kolig. Such vivacity, life and colour, perhaps a post-coital glow (was he straight, bisexual, gay? who cares, it is a magnificent painting). There is very little information on Kolig on the web. Upon recommendation by Gustav Klimt and Carl Moll Kolig received a 1912 scholarship for a stay in Paris, where Kolig studied modern painting at the Louvre. He enlisted in the First World War in 1916 and survived, continuing to work in paint, tapestries and mosaic during the postwar years and the 1920s. He received two offers for professorships in Prague and Stuttgart, he opted for the Württemberg Academy in Stuttgart, where he trained a number of important painters later. In addition, his work was also shown internationally at numerous exhibitions. He was persecuted by the Nazis and his art destroyed because it was thought to be “degenerate” art. Kolig, which was essentially apolitical, remained until the fall of 1943 in Stuttgart, where he felt less and less well, however, and eventually returned to Nötsch. On 17 December 1944 Kolig was buried with his family in a bomb attack and seriously injured. Much of his work was destroyed here. He died in 1950.

For more information on the male body in photographic history please see the chapter “Historical Pressings” from my PhD research Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male (2001). The chapter examines the history of photographic images of the muscular male body from the Victorian to contemporary era. The pages are not a fully comprehensive guide to the history and context of this complex field, but may offer some insight into its development.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx for the Leopold Museum, Vienna for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Anonymous maker. 'Anonymous Youth of Magdalensberg' 16th Century casting after Roman Original


Anonymous maker
Anonymous Youth of Magdalensberg
16th Century casting after Roman Original
© Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Antiquities


Anonymous maker. 'Anonymous standing figure of the court official Snofrunefer Egypt, Old Kingdom, late 5th Dynasty' around 2400 BC


Anonymous maker
Anonymous standing figure of the court official Snofrunefer
Egypt, Old Kingdom, late 5th Dynasty, around 2400 BC
© Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna with MVK and ÖTM, Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection


Auguste Rodin. 'The Age of Bronze' 1875-76


Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
The Age of Bronze
© Kunsthaus Zurich


Anton Kolig. 'Seated Youth (morning)' 1919


Anton Kolig (Austrian, 1886-1950)
Seated Youth (morning)
© Leopold Museum, Wien, Inv. 406



Previous exhibitions on the theme of nudity have mostly been limited to female nudes. With the presentation “naked men” in the autumn of 2012 the Leopold Museum will be showing a long overdue exhibition on the diverse and changing depictions of naked men from 1800 to the present.

Thanks to loans from all over Europe, the exhibition “naked men” will offer an unprecedented overview of the depiction of male nudes. Starting with the period of Enlightenment in the 18th century, the presentation will focus mainly on the time around 1800, on tendencies of Salon Art, as well as on art around 1900 and after 1945. At the same time, the exhibition will also feature important reference works from ancient Egypt, examples of Greek vase painting and works from the Renaissance. Spanning two centuries, the presentation will show different artistic approaches to the subject, competing ideas of the ideal male model as well as changes in the concept of beauty, body image and values.

The exhibition, curated by Tobias G. Natter and Elisabeth Leopold, traces this theme over a long period and draws a continuous arc from the late 18th century to the present. Altogether, the showing brings together around 300 individual works by nearly 100 female and male artists from Europe and the USA. The objective of the two curators Tobias G. Natter and Elisabeth Leopold was “to clearly show the differing artistic approaches, competing models of masculinity, the transformation of ideas about the body, beauty and values, the political dimension of the body, and last but not least the breaking of conventions.”

“Over the past few years, portrayals of nude males have achieved a hitherto unseen public presence,” says Elisabeth Leopold. To which Tobias G. Natter adds, “At the same time, this exhibition is our way of reacting to the fact that categories which had previously seemed established, such as ‘masculinity’, ‘body’ and ‘nakedness’, have today become unstable for a broad swath of society.”


Diversity and abundance: showing for what “nude men” could stand

Elisabeth Leopold remarks that, “In the run-up to our project, we were very surprised to note that some commentators expected a ‘delicate’ exhibition. But in fact, we had no intention of treating the theme in such a way – with reserve, with tact, or in any other way delicately. And we did not understand this topic to be at all delicate in terms of an exhibition on art history somehow requiring a degree of discretion.” A project like nude men would be entirely unthinkable without the experiences and impulses of feminist art as well as cultural history, cultural studies and gender studies. With the exhibition nude men, the Leopold Museum seeks to react to the circumstance that societal categories commonly thought to be firmly established – such as “masculinity”, “body” and “nakedness” – are currently undergoing major changes.

By seizing on these developments, we understand the museum to be an institution which is relevant to today’s society – that is to say, a place for both the present and the future. Tobias G. Natter: “Our objective is to show the diversity and transformation of the portrayal of nude men in light of clearly defined thematic focuses. With fresh curiosity, without traditional scholarly prejudices, and with fascination for an inexhaustibly rich field, we use this exhibition to draw an arc spanning over 200 years which, not least, make a theme of the long shadow cast by the fig leaf.”


The exhibition

The exhibition traces its theme from the late 18th century to the present day. It has three key historical themes: the classical era and the Age of Enlightenment around 1800, classical modernism around 1900, and post-1945 art. These three themes are introduced by a prologue.



The exhibition’s three focuses are preceded by a prologue. Using five outstanding sculptures from European art history, the prologue illuminates this theme’s long tradition. It runs from the “oldest nude in town” – a larger-than-life freestanding figure from ancient Egypt – and the statue known as the Jüngling vom Magdalensberg to Auguste Rodin and Fritz Wotruba, and on to a display window mannequin which Heimo Zobernig reworked to create a nude self-portrait.

Tobias G. Natter: “The curatorial intention behind prologue was to have the audience stroll through nearly five millennia of Western sculptural art in just a few steps. This is meant both to communicate both the long tradition of such images and to highlight the degree to which nude men were taken for granted to be the foundation of our art. These five thousand years form the exhibition’s outer referential frame. Strictly speaking, the showing begins in earnest with the Age of Enlightenment and the period around 1800.”


Three out of five characters from the Prologue "naked men"


Three out of five characters from the Prologue “naked men”

Anonymous maker
Freestanding figure of the court official Snofrunefer
c. 2400 B.C.
© Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
The Age of Bronze
© Kunsthaus Zürich

Heimo Zobernig (Austrian, b. Austrian)
© VBK, Vienna, 2012


Paul Cézanne. 'Seven Bathers' c. 1900


Paul Cézanne (French, 1839-1906)
Seven Bathers
c. 1900
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel


Edvard Munch. 'Bathing Men' 1915


Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Bathing Men
Munch Museum, Oslo
© The Munch Museum/The Munch Ellingsen Group/VBK, Vienna 2012


Wilhelm von Gloeden. 'Flute Concert' 1905


Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931)
Flute Concert
Verlag Adolph Engel, private collection


Richard Gerstl. 'Nude Self-portrait with Palette' 1908


Richard Gerstl (Austrian, 1883-1908)
Nude Self-portrait with Palette
© Leopold Museum, Wien


Egon Schiele. '“Prediger” (Selbstakt mit blaugrünem Hemd) ["Preacher" (Nude with teal shirt)]' 1913


Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890-1918)
‘”Prediger” (Selbstakt mit blaugrünem Hemd)’ [“Preacher” (Nude with teal shirt)]
© Leopold Museum, Wien, Inv. 2365



Theme 1: Classicism and the Power of Reason

In the 18th century and beginning in France, the emancipation of the bourgeois class and the swan song of the Ancien Régime occasioned a renegotiation of concepts of masculinity with both societal and aesthetic implications. The naked male hero was defined anew as a cultural pattern. It became the embodiment of the new ideals.


Theme 2: Classical Modernism

A new and independent pictorial world arose in the late 19th century with the casual depiction of naked men bathing in natural, outdoor settings. The various ways in which artists dealt with this topic can be viewed together as a particularly sensitive gauge of societal moods. In the exhibition, the genre is represented with prominent examples by Paul Cézanne, Edvard Munch, Wilhelm von Gloeden, Max Liebermann, Ernst Ludwig

Kirchner and others. Classical modernism’s quest for a new artistic foundation also had its impact on the topics of nakedness and masculinity. But what happened when the painter’s gaze wandered on from the naked other to the naked self? A principle witness with regard to this phenomenon in turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna is Egon Schiele. With his taboo-breaking self-reflections, he radicalised artists’ self-understanding in a way that nobody had before him. Elisabeth Leopold: “The shift of the painter’s gaze from the naked opposite to the exposed self gave rise to the nude self-portrait – a shining beacon of modernism.”


Theme 3: Post-1945 Developments

In light of the abundance of interesting works from which to choose, the exhibition’s third theme comprises three specific focuses. Common to all three is the way in which the political potential of the naked body is explored. The first of these focuses concentrates on the battle fought by women for legal and social equality during the 20th century.

Outstanding examples of the intense way in which feminist artists have dealt with their own bodies as foils for the projection of gender roles can be found in the output of Maria Lassnig and Louise Bourgeois, whose works are included in the exhibition alongside others by younger woman artists. It was pioneers such as Lassnig and Bourgeois who set in motion the process which, today, underlies feminist art’s steadily increasing presence in terms of interpretation, resources, norms, power, and participation in the art business. The second area introduces artistic works that interlock nude self-portraits and the culture of protest, which bears great similarities to feminist criticism – the naked self between normativity and revolt.

The one issue is the nude self-portrait as a field for experimentation and a phenomenon which questions artistic and societal identities. The other issue has to do with substantive contributions to the gender debate, as well as with artists who take the crisis of obsolete male images as an opportunity to put forth self-defined identities. The third focus, finally, lies in the shift in roles in which the man goes from being the subject to being the object, in fact becoming an erotically charged object – perhaps one of the most fundamental shifts in terms of the forms via which nude men have been portrayed from 1800 to the present. Gay emancipation, in particular, served to radically cast doubt upon normative concepts of masculinity, which it opposed with its own alternative models. In this exhibition, these are represented above all in paintings that feature intimate closeness and male couples.

As the opening of this exhibition neared, a frequently-asked question was that of why the project is being undertaken. Tobias G. Natter’s response: “There are many reasons. But most importantly: because it is overdue.”

Press release from the Leopold Museum website


Bruce Nauman. 'Untitled (Five Marching Men)' 1985


Bruce Nauman (American, b. 1941)
Untitled (Five Marching Men)
© Friedrich Christian Flick Collection / VBK Wien 2012


Gilbert & George. 'Spit Law' 1997


Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch, British born Italy 1943 and George Passmore, British b. 1942)
Spit Law
© Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris / Salzburg


Elmgreen & Dragset. 'Shepherd Boy (Tank Top)' 2009


Elmgreen & Dragset (Michael Elmgreen born 1961; Copenhagen, Denmark and Ingar Dragset born 1969; Trondheim, Norway)
Shepherd Boy (Tank Top)
Courtesy Galleri Nicolai Wallner
© Courtesy Galleri Nocolai Wallner / VBK Wien 2012


Thomas Ruff. 'nudes vg 02' 2000


Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
“nudes vg 02”
Ed. 3/5
© Private collection Cofalka, Austria/with the kind support of agpro – austrian gay professionals
© VBK, Wien 2012


Jean Cocteau. 'Male Couple Illustration for Jean Genet’s 'Querelle de Brest'' 1947


Jean Cocteau (French, 1889-1963)
Male Couple
Illustration for Jean Genet’s ‘Querelle de Brest’

© Private collection © VBK, Wien 2012


Louise Bourgeois. 'Fillette (Sweeter Version)' 1968, cast 1999


Louise Bourgeois (French, 1911-2010)
Fillette (Sweeter Version)
1968, cast 1999
© Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland © VBK, Wien 2012


Pierre & Gilles. 'Vive la France [Long live France]' 2006


Pierre & Gilles (Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard)
Vive la France [Long live France]
© Private collection, Courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris


Andy Warhol. 'Querelle' c. 1982


Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
c. 1982
© Privatsammlung/ VBK, Wien 2012



Leopold Museum
Museums Quartier, Museumsplatz 1
1070 Vienna, Austria

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm

Leopolod Museum website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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