An epic show that collates works by heavyweights such as Michelangelo, Titian and Dürer, The Renaissance Nude at the Royal Academy of Arts is this spring’s most hotly anticipated exhibition. Dedicated to one of the art world’s most compelling subjects, this show explores the ground-breaking influences on portrayals of the naked form in the 15th and 16th centuries. Here, Lucy Chiswell, Assistant Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts, talks us through The Renaissance Nude’s highlights.
Why was the Renaissance so pivotal for the representation of the naked form in art?
“The 15th and 16th centuries were a time of great innovation for the visual arts. Spiritual beliefs, new artistic attitudes and the rise of humanist culture shaped the appearance, meaning and reception of the nude.”
How were the artists of the 15th and 16th centuries influenced by the ancient Greeks and Romans?
“A renewed interested in ancient Greek and Roman art brought the human body to the forefront of artistic innovation. As humanists applied Classical modes of thinking to philosophy and the writing of history and poetry, there was also a growing taste for the antique in the visual arts. Apollo and Venus were celebrated for their ideal beauty, while the adventures of the Greek and Roman gods provided artists with opportunities to explore human impulses often condemned by the Christian church. The rediscovery of works of art and treatises from antiquity also inspired a new interest in the ideal proportions of the human figure.”
How did you go about selecting the works on display?
“The Renaissance Nude is a collaboration between the Royal Academy of Arts and the J. Paul Getty Museum, who have worked together on the project for the last three years.”
What are the show’s highlights?
“The exhibition brings together a variety of works by artists from both north and south of the Alps, ranging from full-scale paintings and bronze statuettes, to jewel-like illuminations and anatomical studies. Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder are among the artists included.”
In what ways can the influence of the Renaissance nude still be felt in art today?
“The study of the nude remains a fundamental element of artistic training and the developments and innovations that took place during the Renaissance continue to be appreciated and explored by artists today.”
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