Nude Art or Erotic Art?

Thinking About Nude Photography

Nude art or erotic art?. They may appear to be very similar genres. Here is a couple of simple definitions:


Nude Art


The human form has been a central theme of art since early people daubed pictures on their cave walls. Nude art has progressed through the statues of Ancient Greece, through Renaissance artists to modern painters such as Lucienne Freud and photographers. The intention of the artist inform and to stimulate interest whilst creating a work that is regarded by society as having a high aesthetic merit.

Nude in a landscape Nude art or erotic art
Priestess of the god Pan. colour nude in woodland. Art print from digital original


Erotic Art


Erotic art was not far behind. From early bronze age fertility symbols through the statues with huge phallus’s dug out of the Roman ruins of Pompeii to present day photography and film making image makers have produced art that is intended to arouse the viewer. In order to be considered erotic art rather than just smut the images should have aesthetic merit.
This brings us to a neat conclusion:
Nude Art: The artists intention is to show the beauty, shape and/or character of the human form.
Erotic Art: The artists intention is to arouse the viewer.

Those that view any depiction of the naked human body as titillating would argue that there is no discernible difference. True, it is impossible for an artist to remove any erotic connotations from a work for all viewers; someone, somewhere is going to find an image of a model clad head to toe in a bin bag erotic. This raises the question, is it the lack of nudity that transforms a picture from nude art to erotic art? As soon as we add clothing, drapes or anything that conceals parts of the human body, especially the erogenous zones, are we creating erotica? Does the imagination spring to life conjuring up images of hidden delights that naturally stimulates arousal?

If we introduce fetish clothing then for a lot of viewers the message becomes clear, the artists intention is to arouse. Bondage even more so as frequently the model remains nude.

Judging which genre contemporary images fall into is relatively easy as the viewer is aware of the social restraints and norms under which the image was created, There is almost an unwritten visual language in society at any given time that defines what is seen as acceptable nude art , erotic art or pornographic. This has changed over the forty years I have been taking photographs but look further back and the changes become more pronounced. For example look at images illustrating the legend of Perseus and Andromeda. They feature a woman chained or tied to a rock. In an Apulian Red Figure Vase, ca. 430-420 BC a fully dressed Andromeda is tied for sacrifice by a naked man. In a first century fresco from Pompeii she is still clothed and being rescued by a naked Perseus. By the 16th century both are naked in art and by the 19th Perseus is fully dressed and Andromeda is naked. There must be elements of erotica and art in all of these depictions but are they nude art, erotic art or fetish art? To some extent the age of an artwork also influences which genre we tend to fit it into. If it is old it must be nude art rather than erotic art.

Andromeda Nude art or erotic art

There may be some overlap between these definitions in that some viewers may be aroused by what others find artistic and some find highly artistic what others find erotic.In my series Twenty Nudes some viewers may browse them and appreciate the subjects character and the way they present their nakedness to the camera; others may just like looking at naked women. If you do try:

Erotic and Nude Art Portfolios

I don’t know much about art but I know what I like

There is nothing wrong with either viewpoint. When buying art prints, whether they are erotic, abstract or classical nude, when commissioning a boudoir portrait or just browsing my portfolios the only thing that is important is that the images fulfill your tastes and desires.

My art is available on Fine Art America

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