If I ask you to think of a famous nude painting, you will more than likely imagine a painting of a woman who is nude or nearly nude. Maybe Sandro Botticelli’s masterful “The Birth of Venus”, a full-figured body by Rubens or even Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” come to mind. This makes sense because throughout the history of art the female body has been portrayed more often than the male body in the nude format. The latest exhibition at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art in Budapest, however, is focusing on the exact opposite, the male nude.
Before Playboy or nude photographs, there existed many titillating images of women barely dressed or completely undressed and these hung in the homes of the wealthiest patrons in plain view. These were acceptable for display in their salons and studies because of their mythological or religious subject matter. Mythological figures include Danae who is showered with gold coins or Venus who is often depicted brushing her hair or looking in the mirror. Religious figures include Bathsheba bathing or Susanna being spied upon by the elders. These women are depicted in a voyeuristic way, as they seem unaware of being watched. The female nude later became a subject matter in its own right that artists tried faithfully to capture on canvas and in stone or bronze. These works usually have what is termed a “male gaze”.
In classical antiquity the male body was a subject matter that was thoroughly explored. Later, however, the male body was mostly out of sight, usually hidden in full clothing or even armor, with the exception of a few mythological images or Christian martyrs.
This fascinating exhibition is going to explore the reasons for this change, including how the role of men adapted and other sociological reasons, by examining the works of art that depict the male body. It will look at how male artists depict their own bodies and what this reflects. And it will examine how women artists depict the male nude (the “female gaze”), something which has only been possible in more recent times since women artists were often barred from access to nude models in the past.
Beginning about 1900 in turn-of-the-century Vienna, the exhibition then continues through the 20th and 21st centuries examining the way the artists own identities and their relationship to the model changed. Eventually, the male nude also gains footing as an erotic image and one that can be viewed with a “gaze of desire”.
Works by artists such as Egon Schiele, Lovis Corinth, Erich Heckel, Robert Mapplethorpe, Oskar Kokoschka, Louise Bourgeois, Eduard Munch, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, and Gilbert & George will be included in the exhibition.
“The Naked Man” exhibition is possible in cooperation with the LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz, who hosted an exhibition prior to this one. The Ludwig Museum of Budapest’s exhibition will incorporate more works by Central and Eastern European artists. It can be seen until June 30.
The Ludwig Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am until 6 pm. It is located at Komor Marcell u. 1 and can be reached by metro and bus (see the website for more details).
Find cheap apartments in Budapest and take the train or bus to the Ludwig Museum to see this enthralling exhibition.