ARTicle Magazine

Three picks from The Body Laid Bare

29 March 2017

Mary Kisler, Senior Curator of International Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, chooses a trio of works from the gallery's big new exhibition of nude masterpieces from Britain's Tate galleries.

Philip Wilson nude

Photo: ©Tate, London, 2017

The Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from Tate, until Sunday 16 July, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

Philip Wilson Steer, Seated Nude: The Black Hat

Circa 1900, Oil paint on canvas, 508 x 406mm. Tate: Presented by the Contemporary Art Society, 1941

Beautifully composed, the swoop of the sofa both embraces the model and leads the eye round to the mound of rumpled cloth on which she sits. The black suggests the outer garments she has cast off for the pose, while the cream and rose between her legs is like a fountain of silky taffeta. A member of the demi-mondaine, the woman is anchored in the real world by her hat, and the painting was therefore considered shocking to hypocritical members of the public who preferred to relish idealised nudes without any reference to everyday life.

Henri Matisse nude

Photo: ©Tate, London, 2017

Henri Matisse, Draped Nude

1936, oil paint on canvas, 457 x 375mm. Tate: Purchased 1959

Henri Matisse also shocked his audiences with the modern nature of his intimate approach to the nude. He sits so close to his model that her chair spills into his and our space, her gaze matching his with its directness. She drapes herself across the arm of the chair, completely confident in herself, her patterned peignoir the very height of fashion.

Tracey Emin nude

Photo: ©Tate, London, 2017

Tracey Emin, The Last Thing I Said to You was Don't Leave Me Here II

2000, digital print on paper, 805 x 1095mm. Tate: Presented anonymously, 2002

While Philip Wilson Steer and Henri Matisse presented images of the female nude for the viewer’s delectation, Tracey Emin uses her own body to create a striking image that speaks of emotion. The peeling paint and decay of the corner in which she sits, head bowed, reinforces her isolation. We are sent to the corner for misbehaving, but those angled walls can also be a haven, when life itself becomes too much to bear.

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