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The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form by Kenneth Clark

Clark attempts to explain the ever-changing fashion of what has constituted the ideal nude as a basis of humanist form.

In his book The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, Kenneth Clark looks to answer the question of what makes a work of art considered to be a “nude” as opposed to simply a naked person? To do this, he surveys the history of the nude in art, from the Greek masters to the modern day. He also looks at how our understanding and appreciation of the nude has changed over time.

One of Clark’s most interesting points is that the ideal nude is not simply a naked person, but rather a work of art that captures the essence of humanity. This is what separates the nude from other types of art, such as portraiture or landscape painting. The nude is about more than just the physical form; it is about capturing the spiritual and emotional aspects of humanity as well.

Another important point that Clark makes is that our understanding of what constitutes the ideal nude has changed significantly over time. For instance, in Greek art, the ideal nude was often portrayed as being perfect in both form and proportion. However, during the Renaissance, artists began to depict nudes as being more naturalistic and imperfect. This trend has continued into modern times, with artists such as Renoir and Moore depicting nudes that are far from perfect.

In the first chapter, “The Nude and Greek Art”, Clark looks at how the nude was represented in Greek art. He talks about how the Greeks believed that to be naked was simply to be without clothes and how they viewed the nude as something that was natural and beautiful. He also looks at how the nude was used in Greek sculpture and how it was often used to depict gods and heroes.

In the second chapter, “The Nude and Renaissance Art”, Clark looks at how the Renaissance artists saw the nude. He talks about how they believed that the nude was a work of art and should be treated as such. He also looks at how the nude was used in Renaissance paintings and how it often depicted scenes from mythology or religion.

In the third chapter, “The Nude in Modern Art”, Clark looks at how the nude has been represented in modern art. He talks about how Modern artists have often used the nude to challenge traditional ideas about art and beauty. He also looks at how the nude has been used in Modern paintings, sculptures, and photographs.


I. The Naked and the Nude
II. Apollo
III. Venus I
IV. Venus II
V. Energy
VI. Pathos
VII. Ecstasy
VIII. The Alternative Convention
IX. The Nude as an End in Itself
List of Books referred in Abbreviated Form

Overall, I found The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form to be a fascinating book. It was eye-opening to see how our concept of the ideal nude has changed so dramatically over time. It is well-written and easy to understand. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about art history, studying for an art exam or interested in the history of the human body in art, I would highly recommend this book.

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