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5 Women Artists Who Depict The Male Nude
These ladies draw attention to the male anatomy…
News 28 May 2019

Throughout the history of art, male artists have been lauding the female nude, taking pleasure in painting and sculpting unclothed women for centuries. From Venus appearing as an apparition from inside a scallop shell (most famously by Botticelli), to the infamous reclining nude (think Manet, Modigliani, Titian), it seems male artists have always had a thing for naked women.
 
As we all know, women have not been treated kindly by art history. How many of us can name a female “old master”? By the time it was deemed “acceptable” for women to attend art school, they still struggled to be allowed to attend the same classes as their male counterparts. In the UK for instance, the first female artist wasn’t admitted into the Royal Academy Schools until 1860, and it was only because Laura Herford signed her application with a first initial “L. Herford.” Thus, the school was none the wiser that they were about to accept their first female student. And, while women continued to study at their, they were only permitted to draw casts of nude figures and not the real thing in the flesh. They would have to wait 33 years to be allowed to draw from the male life model (and even then he was made to wear a sheet of fabric around his waist). Sigh!
 
Fortunately since this backwards era, women have begun to begin to address the imbalance between their male counterparts. And to highlight this progress, we’ve rounded up a list of five female artists who paint and sculpt nude men.
 
Michaelina Wautier
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A true rebel, Michaelina Wautier (1604-1689) is believed to be the first female artist to depict a male nude. Actually, (sigh) history previously mistook her for a male artist (I mean how could a woman dare to dream about painting a naked man!?). It is said that she had excellent anatomical knowledge of the male body, and even worked with a life model – talk about trailblazer!
 
Sylvia Sleigh
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Sylvia Sleigh (1916-2010) is known for her highly stylised male nudes. She had a number of male muses and is famous for reworking art historical scenes full of female nudes by replacing them with naked men.
 
Eunice Golden
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Eunice Golden describes her focus on the male nude as a way of addressing her needs as a heterosexual woman with erotic needs. She is also a founding member of SOHO20, an all-women cooperative gallery in New York where Sylvia Sleigh was also a key figure.
 
Sarah Lucas
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Famous for using furniture as a substitute for the human body, Sarah Lucas brings the male nude off of the canvas and into a three-dimensional form, often using fruit and vegetables to depict the male anatomy.
 
Christabel MacGreevy
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British artist Christabel MacGreevy is best known as an illustrator. She often depicts scenes from mythology, as well as the intimacy of relationships. In her exhibition Glut at Lamb Arts in London last year however, she created her own cave, filled with oversized papier-mache phallic sculptures, which she called the “fertility chamber”.
 
Text by Lizzy Vartanian
Images via @kunstencontext, @gverbaan, @seminalworks, @elsayranzo, @christabitch

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