Nude Paintings: Hot or Not?

Reproductions of works by Amedeo Modigliani. Photo via AP Images.
Reproductions of works by Amedeo Modigliani. Photo via AP Images.

For a time, nude paintings were the height of sophistication; then they were déclassé; and now—well, they seem to be coming back, but there are skeptics.


The Wall Street Journal considers the question of whether nude paintings are in, or out, or “so out they’re arguably in.” Writer Julie Lasky notes that “a lot of people in the 1960s and ’70s, my formative decades, considered nudes socially progressive.” Yes, an entire era was best encapsulated by those shaggy pencil drawings in The Joy of Sex. But as “reserved minimalism dominated décor” increasingly, they were no longer the fashion. People were presumably too busy covering everything in mauve and then switching it all over to chrome and rectangles.

But are nudes back? Are breasts once more abundant? Is it true that, “As the pendulum swings toward maximalism, a look characterized by a profusion of pattern and design exhibitionism, the candid expressiveness of nudes seems fresh”? One design historian noted, “I see plenty of nudity on ‘Game of Thrones,’” and perhaps we’re currently inundated with so much raunch that a nice painted nude is almost sweet and old-fashioned, the equivalent of the ’90s passion for warm florals. Others aren’t so sure, however:

Still other professionals insist that clients are not prudish, arguing that the painted, drawn or sculpted figure—with or without clothes—has simply gone out of style. The trend is for “contemporary art and its more abstract imagery,” said New York designer Jamie Drake. Ms. Spears acknowledged that, for her generation, progressive artwork isn’t figurative: “It’s bold, abstract and super minimalist.” She characterized the nudes she hung so hesitantly as “frumpy.”

Can’t be having frumpy nudes in your tastefully appointed living spaces. But even if you are skeptical, know that there are worse options.

When Los Angeles designer Isabelle Dahlin remodeled a home in Los Feliz, Calif., she found a moody portrait of a bare-breasted woman in her clients’ collection. The oil painting went between the nobby spindles of a four-poster, on a busily papered wall in a guest room (pictured above). The work, she said, was a refreshing departure from the craft-based art pieces she had been dealing with: “If I have to see another macramé wall hanging, I’m going to kill myself.”

Who wouldn’t take tits over macramé?

Senior Editor at Jezebel, specializing in books, royals, romance novels, houses, history, and the stories we tell about domesticity and femininity. Resident Windsor expert.



Look if I had the money I would have all kinds of paints portraits of myself all over the damn place.

“Here I am reading delicately in the library. Here I am riding a polar bear with a fur bikini wielding a flaming sword and axe. Can’t you just hear the Led Zeppelin emanating from it? And here I am nekkid on a tasteful chaise lounge. The artist made my ass look fantastic, wouldn’t you say?”