Art and Nudism, a Discussion
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Art and Nudism, a Discussion

Famous painters and artists have painted the female form in the nude and India is no exception.

Recently there was a news item that Vida Balkan the Bollywood actress was requested by Maqbool Hussain the well known painter to model in the nude for him. Husain is a well known name in the art world and it was no surprise that he wished to paint Vida in the nude. He had earlier earned the wrath of Hindu revivalists by painting the Hindu goddesses in the nude. The question is not that Husain wished to paint nudes, but an earthier question that is a nude painting a work of art.

Some time back I had visited the National Museum at Delhi. I spent considerable time having a look at the paintings of Amrita Shergil (1913-41). It is tragic that this young painter passed away in the prime of her life, but I studied nearly a 100 of her paintings, some of them stunning nudes of herself and I came away feeling that nude paintings are an expression of the deepest art and a realization that God has created something so lovely that it cannot and should not be by passed. As far as Amrita is concerned her paintings are a beacon and one can see the essence of life in her oils and sketches.

Then there is Raja Ravi Varma (1848-06) another painter from Kerala who is much respected. His erotic women are the ultimate in creative art. How many people know that he asked the temple dancers called Devdasis to shed their clothes while they danced, so that he could paint them in their prime ordeal origin?

Painting the female form has been an expression from ancient time. A woman in her natural form is supposed to be an inspiration. To quote Jatin Das(1941-) who is a master painter himself ‘There is nothing like nudity. Its bare art’. Among the western painters Salvador Dali must be in the forefront. Then among the modern artists there is Margaret Rose Perenchio who painted a semi nude portrait of Salma Hayek.

It must be appreciated that the female form in its nudity has been a cornerstone of artistic expression. It is a form of creativity and cannot be wished away. Who can forget the lovely painting by Goya (1746-1828) of the woman he loved, the Duchess of Alba in the nude. That was a revolutionary step and the first time a famous and known name was put on the canvas.

Nudism per se is certainly not art, but it has to have something more than that. There has to be a genius doing it and not just a voyeuristic. How do we distinguish between the two? That is the test of time and History.

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