Demure, Conservative Nudes Entice American Collectors: Though Both Artists and Collectors Are Drawn to the Female Form, the American Public Seems to Prefer a Quiet Sensuality in Paintings and Fine Art Prints That Portray the Human Body

By Keller, Julie | Art Business News, November 2002 | Go to article overview

Demure, Conservative Nudes Entice American Collectors: Though Both Artists and Collectors Are Drawn to the Female Form, the American Public Seems to Prefer a Quiet Sensuality in Paintings and Fine Art Prints That Portray the Human Body


Keller, Julie, Art Business News


To both artists and collectors, the female figure is a work of art. The classic curve of the hip and the sensuous cleft of a breast are inspirational to artists and beautiful to collectors. For this reason, nudes, particularly females nudes, grace the walls of a multitude of galleries and museums and are sought after by art lovers at all levels of the market. Though the appreciation of nudes is at an all-time high, the American marketplace does seem to have its limits and prefers what Herb Spiers of Selected International Fine Arts (SIFA) in New York calls "the demure nude."

"From my experience, it is easier to sell demure nudes, which usually means they are seen from the back or partially covered," he explained. SIFA carries the work of four artists who paint nudes--Joan Marti, Felipe Santamans, Christian Gafflard and Nydia Lozano--and the company's most sellable works in the American market can be classified as "conservative."

Lisa J. Cook of London Contemporary Art, which publishes nudes from Chen Bolan, Avataneo, Roy Fairchild, Benfield and others, added that this is particularly true in the fine art print market. She said her company has also found greater success when selling nudes that are softer, painted from a rear view or discreetly covered. "When producing art in the limited-edition market, where the appeal is expected to be more broad than the originals market, you will find it is easier to sell some nudes over others," she explained.

"The back, veiled nude is probably the best-selling nude," agreed Steve Hoffman of Behr-Thyssen, publisher of artists Will Kissmer and Oliviero Masai, acclaimed painters of the female figure.

Decorative Expressions President Robert Harris, whose company wholesales original nude paintings from artists Roman Frances and Mallol, said he finds that even in the originals realm, American collectors generally look for nudes that are "very elegant, very soft and not suggestive or overly sexual."

An Explanation of Attitudes

There are many theories revolving around Americans' attraction to demure, rather than explicit nudes, most of them revolving around this country's prevalent conservative nature. "America was born in a puritan culture where nudity was understood as the devil's playground," said Spiers. "Hence, a cultural prohibition still exists to this day."

Beth Blankenship of Gregory Editions, publisher of several artists who paint nudes, including Domenech, Douglas Hofmann, Mark Spain, Joy Kirton-Smith and Sarah Jane Szikora, said she also sees a more limited exposure of nudes in galleries "due to the more conservative attitudes in the U.S. about nudity". She said she sees a distinct difference in the acceptance of nudes in Europe versus America.

Many publishers and artists find this attitude disconcerting, particularly in light of the sex-laden advertising and film productions that are prevalent in our culture. "I see a double standard in the West," said Fred Szabries, an artist and art dealer who sells his work and others' through his company, Studio Szabries. "The nude and the figure is portrayed sexually to sell products, but it is deemed inappropriate as art. I think it's a case of the current rampant political correctness that is constricting all facets of society."

Regardless of the reason for the attraction to the "demure nude," as opposed to more explicit images, there is indeed a popular market for the work and will continue to be because the human body is considered to be an art form by enough collectors of fine art and a multitude of artists. "Despite the primarily contemporary Western view that the nude can be offensive as a form of decoration, it has been used through the ages and therefore is considered acceptable, providing it is not explicit," explained Szabries.

An Artistic Appeal

For artists, the beauty and complexity of the human figure is the prime impetus for painting it. …

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Demure, Conservative Nudes Entice American Collectors: Though Both Artists and Collectors Are Drawn to the Female Form, the American Public Seems to Prefer a Quiet Sensuality in Paintings and Fine Art Prints That Portray the Human Body
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