The Royal Academy’s latest exhibition traces the development of the nude through artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Dürer and Cranach. Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews.


Titian, Venus Rising from the Sea (‘Venus Anadyomene’), c. 1520. Oil on canvas, 75.8 x 57.6 cm. National Galleries of Scotland. Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government (hybrid arrangement) and allocated to the Scottish National Gallery, with additional funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), and
the Scottish Executive, 2003.

The Telegraph: *** “The nude is such an omnipresent fixture in Western art that we tend not to spend time wondering about how and why it got like that. It all started, of course, in classical antiquity and was revived during the renaissance, giving rise to such all-defining works as Michelangelo’s David (1504) and Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538). But the specifics how the various forms of the nude were “invented” and how people thought about them at the time generally elude us.”

The Guardian: ***** ” What a great show this is, how thought-provoking, mysterious, and nearly modern.”

The Times: “With the dawn of the Renaissance, the naked body re-emerged in all its glory from behind medieval drapes and was put to a new variety of expressive purposes. It is this moment of remarkable flowering that a Royal Academy exhibition celebrates.”

Time Out: **** “What you come out of this with is a sense that the nude is a complicated thing, with countless meanings and uses. I’m not sure I totally follow the flow or reasoning of the show, and it certainly struggles to tell you much of the whys or hows of nude renaissance art, but it’s a wild ride into the blushing brilliance of soft-core old art.”

Evening Standard: ***** “The themes of the exhibition — Christian art; Humanism; Artistic Theory and Practice; Beyond the Ideal Nude — more or less make sense, though I couldn’t get the hang of the one on Personalising the Nude.”

The Upcoming: **** “Personalising the Nude concludes the exhibition with a shift towards ownership and commissioned works of art for personal use, notably by patron Isabella d’Este. The pieces seem more ostentatious and a favourable part of the display although, overall, there are plenty of interesting and beautiful works that make The Renaissance Nude a superb showcase of this period.”

London Visitors: “This intriguing exhibition gives viewers the opportunity to see the Renaissance Nude in a different light. As the nude became an increasingly dominant role in the visual arts, it was used in a variety of sacred and secular contexts. Whether used in small, intimate objects to large decorative projects that filled church interiors and palaces, the Renaissance Nude led to a series of developments that led to new ideas of humanity and the human form.”

Culture Whisper: *** “There are many beautiful works here, not just paintings and drawings, but sculptures and bronzes, too, some barely larger than a postage stamp, plus intricate illuminations. But, despite the art on offer, this exhibition does nothing new. A focused examination of homoerotic art of the Renaissance would have been more daring – there are a couple of examples here. Instead we are offered a broad sweep without a fresh angle.”

The Renaissance Nude is on display at the Royal Academy of Arts until the 2nd June.

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