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A presentation of the nude in American art, photography, and popular culture, from the eighteenth century to the present. With more than four hundred color illustrations, this is the most thorough and wide-reaching survey of the representation of the male and female nude in American visual culture yet published. Bram Dijkstra explores the history of the subject from its earliest manifestations in the paintings of John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West to the taboo-shredding imagery of late-twentieth-century artists such as Alice Neel, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eric Fischl, and John Currin. Dijkstra is a cultural historian who refuses to separate “high” and “low” art, charting instead such momentous historical events as the discovery of pubic hair, the invasion of the pin-up queens, “the inexorable rise of the breast,” and the puzzling fluctuations of American prudery. Naked also examines the effects of the early twentieth century’s infatuation with Freudian psychoanalysis and the more recent fascination of comic book art with the legacy of Bettie Page and her seemingly ever more muscular daughters. In chronological and thematic order, the book demonstrates the links between the work of some of the most famous names in the history of American painting (Chase, Cassatt, Hopper), sculpture (French, Powers), and photography (Cunningham, Weston), and that of the outlaw hordes of cartoonists, book-cover illustrators, and visual extremists who, particularly during the last half-century, were able to turn the United States into the world’s principal purveyor of erotic fantasies.
“Naked is a thorough exploration of America’s sometimes puritanical and sometimes perverse relationship with the nude in the visual arts. Dijkstra brilliantly illustrates more than four hundred and twenty American works portraying the naked body in a myriad of manifestations. The book reads like an incisive lecture, sparing no criticism for American culture and its hypocrisies. The book features gorgeous artworks long hidden in museum vaults for fear of offending conservative patrons. From Andrew Wyeth to racy comic book covers, Naked reveals the hidden history of the American nude in the first comprehensive book to be published on the subject in more than thirty-five years. This is more than just an art book -- it is a long overdue statement about America’s peculiar attitude towards the naked human body.” - THE Magazine
“In Naked, Dijkstra, a specialist in comparative literature who has written extensively about art, deftly assembles a richly illustrated history of the American nude that spans centuries and media, from Benjamin West’s 18th century mythological scenes (naked cupids galore) through (tame) Edward Hopper paintings to Terry Richardson’s lascivious photographs of pole dancers (my goodness).” - ArtInfo.com