Schiele grew up in Austria during a time when sex was celebrated in different forms of art from painting to the composes Gustav Mahler’s exhilarating musical works. The ‘Father of Pyschoanalysis’ Sigmund Freud’s revolutionary essays on sexuality were published at the time Schiele was studying at art college affecting him greatly. Schiele’s work was not appreciated outside of his home country until decades after his death, when he was recognised as one of the most important exponents of Expressionism. In 1912 he was even imprisoned for displaying ‘immoral drawings’ in a place where they were visible to children. He even produced a number of notable self-portraits from his prison cell whilst incarcerated.
Sarah Hardacre is a contemporary artist and printmaker who utilises the female nude figure in a very different way in her work. Hardacre is well known for her paper collages and silkscreen prints, which dramatically juxtapose glamour models from vintage ‘Gentlemen’s’ magazines with the stark urban landscape of her hometown Salford. The women in Hardacre’s prints are presented oversized against their backdrops creating a striking balance between the sensual curves of the models with the harshly structured post-war architecture. Hardacre’s use of women in her work is to celebrate the beauty natural female form rather than presenting an image of misogyny.
Henri Matisse has seen a resurgence in popularity recently due to the sensational exhibition of his paper cut outs, which was held at the Tate Modern earlier this year. The show was the best attended in the Tate’s history and brought the French artists work to a fresh new audience. Throughout his life Matisse explored the nude female body in his artwork. Arguably his most famous works, which were made toward the end of his esteemed career, were his blue gouache découpées representing elegantly stylised women either seated or standing.
Women played an incredibly important role in the life of Matisse with the artist employing the help of several beautiful female studio assistants who would became his muses. Towards the end of career Matisse was virtually bed ridden due to complications from surgery but still created work, drawing from bed, cutting paper that had been painted for him and instructing the fabrication of his work.
The female nude is one of the most recognisable and evocative motives in art and is constantly a source of inspiration for a great number of artists regardless of the era, aesthetic style of movement.