[Milton-L] Nude or Naked?

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 25 20:11:15 EDT 2011

James, I blogged about this today, but prior sending an inquiry to Mr. Grimes.


But I don't really have anything of interest to say, so there's no need to click 
over there.

I should note two things in your post, however:

1. Did you mean Kenneth Clarke rather than Burke?

2. Wasn't the distinction between "nude" and "naked" made by Grimes rather than 

Anyway, the recent comments on this list have been very interesting.

Jeffery Hodges

From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Tue, July 26, 2011 8:39:08 AM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Nude or Naked?


Yes, I do recall.  Thank you for posting the link again.  At the time,
I followed it, read the article, and then followed another embedded
link to view some of L. Freud's paintings.  I'm sure Hannibal is right
in that, etymologically, the distinction between "naked" and "nude" is
an artificial one.  However, culturally, I think that Burke's
introduction of this distinction has taken at least some hold, as
registered by your respondent.  I think if we were to survey art sites
(including Mapplethorpe's), the word "nude" is almost always used,
while if we were to survey porn sites, both the words "naked" and
"nude" are used interchangeably.  So however artificial the
distinction is historically, today the distinction is not.  If we can
pin the distinction to K. Burke and the 20thC, at least that allows us
to avoid anachronism in our application of the distinction.

Lucian's Freud's comment that he wanted his models to be "naked"
rather than "nude" is in fact dependent upon a distinction between the
terms: he can only muddle the waters because they were clear to him to
some degree.  What was interesting to me is that he refused to use
professional models to achieve his effect.  His models were not used
to being seen naked and so actively looked uncomfortable; some of
them, as Hannibal observed, were certainly -not- what the art world
would normally choose to use as nude models.  Mapplethorpe is much
more traditional in that regard.

The two nudes linked by the NYT are "The Painter's Daughter" and the
massive "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping."


Again, I have to agree with Hannibal -- the subjects seem to be
desexualized aesthetically.  The subject takes up a large area of the
canvas, and then the flesh is somewhat mottled.  I'm a bit weirded
out, to use a professional art-historian term, that L. Freud painted
his own daughter nude.  But the important thing is that she seemed to
feel that way too -- Freud painted her face with red hues and the
expression looks at least uncomfortable, if not mortified, even if
there is a slight smile.  It's very human: naked, not nude.  She does
not have the formal beauty of Mapplethorpe's Lydia Cheng -- she does
not embody nude female perfection -- and what she does have is hardly
accentuated by Freud's style.

However, regardless of Freud's probable intent, out of all the nudes
we've considered or discussed (including A&E, which I too would
imagine had perfectly aestheticized beauty however that was defined),
this one is the most potentially arousing to me.  She is not an object
or just a work of art; she is a woman who feels, and I am not just
seeing her body, but I'm also seeing her feelings.  And, she is a real
woman, not a statuesque model of perfection.  This case would be truly
muddled, as it is potentially arousing yet clearly art and not porn,
and it's not arousing (for me) because it is explicitly sexualized.
Perhaps it is potentially arousing because it is not.

Jim R
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