Truth in nakedness

Nuda Veritas (1899) – Gustav Klimt

“Klimt certainly wasn’t the first to paint naked women,” Ruiz says. “But he also showed pubic hair, pregnant bellies, and old men and women with sagging flesh — nuda veritas! –Ruiz via [1]

..“What is interesting about Klimt (played here by John Malkovich) is that in the short space of a lifetime, he evolved from a Raphael to a Van Gogh. In Romania, where he got his first big job — and his first syphilis — he was a painter of the court, like Velazquez. Then he moved on to the painter of the Austrian Empire, paid by the state. Then he broke away and got commissions from Vienna’s Jewish bourgeoisie and became a painter of the wealthy. Toward the end, he just painted for himself. So he became rich, but he was also generous and died without money. Too many children to support!” –Ruiz via [1]

Apparently, what shocked the Viennese bourgeoisie in the 1899 oil painting Nuda Veritas is the depiction of pubic hair. Pubic hair marks the dividing line between a Venus and a Nini (see previous post), and continues to have the power to shock in the present age. I can’t be mournful about that because if there were a world where nothing were shocking, a world where a sense of the forbidden were gone, wouldn’t that be a bore?

Klimt vs. Loos

“All art is erotic”, declared Adolf Loos in “Ornament and Crime“. Long before Expressionism and Surrealism were credited with displaying sexuality openly in art, Klimt made it his creed, and it became the leitmotif of his work. –Gilles Néret, 1993

“”The first ornament that was ever born, the cross, was erotic in origin. The first work of art, the first artistic deed which the first artist smeared on the wall in order to work off his excess. A horizontal line: recumbent woman. A vertical line: man penetrating her … But man of our time, following an inner compulsion to smear the walls with erotic symbols, is criminal or degenerate … Since ornament is no longer a coherent organic part of our culture, it can no longer be an expression of our culture.” Thus wrote Adolf Loos in his article “Ornament and Crime”, which begins with the famous sentence: “All art is erotic”. The intention behind the article was to stigmatise the “erotic insalubrity” of Klimt and the other artists of the Wienner Werkstätten.” –Gilles Néret, 1993