• Jean-Léon Gérôme | Phryne before the Areopagus (1861) Kunsthalle Hamburg

    Pleasures of the Male Gaze

    Pleasures of the male gaze; and in other words: men like looking at women. No surprise there. For males, the eye is the primary sense organ when it comes to appraising feminine beauty. Looking at members...

    Pleasures of the male gaze; and in other words: men like looking at women. No surprise there. For males, the eye is the primary sense organ when it comes to appraising feminine beauty. Looking at members of the opposite sex is, for the male, an instinctual act connected to the sexual pleasure that comes with the necessity to ensure survival of the species through reproduction. In the pursuit of pleasure the male’s scrutiny of the female is the preliminary step in an erotic dance. The next step, often criticized by the woman being “checked out” by a male, is the imaginative undressing of the female, revealing the pleasure to be had in her naked form.

    Alessandro Allori painting of Susanna and The Elders (male gaze)
    Alessandro Allori | Susanna and The Elders, Florentine (1535 – 1607) Musée Magnin, Lyon

    Looking steadily, intently and with fixed attention at a fellow human being of the opposite sex with the effect of raising the emotion of desire is a motif that has been very popular in western art. The strength of the emotion is a factor of cultural norms. Thus peeping or taking a longer and broader, forbidden look at a clothed or unclothed female, is for males a highly stimulating activity. In art, the eroticism of the illicit act of gazing becomes a visual stand-in for the act itself. A male looking at a picture like Alessandro Allori’s Susanna and the Elders puts himself in the position of the elders and in doing so achieves a measure of pleasure. The biblical event represented in this work is the failed blackmailing of Susanna by two lustful elders who have been driven wild to have sex with her. Their lust was raised by secretly observing her bathing in her garden.

    Giuseppe Cesari painting of Male Gaze: Diana and Actaeon (1602/03)
    Giuseppe Cesari | Diana and Actaeon (1602/03) Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts

    The arousal of male sexual desire through surreptitiously or accidentally observing, a naked female body was a subject of an understandably popular ancient Greek myth. The story tells how chaste goddess Diana bathing in a spring with her attendant nymphs was unintentionally seen by the mortal, hunter Actaeon. The sight of her naked form raised Actaeon’s lust. Diana, anticipating that he would be unable to control himself, dampened his ardour by splashing him with water. The magical treatment was very effective at “cooling his jets” because he was turned into a deer and torn to shreds by his own hunting dogs. The cautionary moral of this tale: don’t look at a naked female, especially if she is a goddess; does nothing to deter males from illicitly or accidentally gazing at females. It merely raises the stakes, adds danger to the act which ups the power of peeping to elevate lust.

    Jean-Léon Gérôme painting of the male gaze of Phryne before the Areopagus (1861)
    Jean-Léon Gérôme | Phryne before the Areopagus (1861) Kunsthalle Hamburg

    A specific kind of painting in western art that had the purpose of arousing male lust became popular from the 15th century on. Clothed in the garb of legitimacy by representing select, mythological and historical events, these pictures work because they simulate situations that are not dissimilar to those in the male imagination, where the thought of gazing at a female body may be almost as stimulating as the act itself. This suggests that erotic male pleasure and consequently the male obsession with the female body is entirely a mental construct. A work by the French 19th century painter Gérôme, is an example of pictorial stimulation of the male mind.

    The artist portrayed the trial for impiety of the Athenian, courtesan Phryne. It is intended to act as a pleasurable reflection on the effects of intent looking at a naked female body. In summing up the case for the defence, Phryne’s lawyer pulled off her robe exposing her to the eyes of the judges. They were, so the story goes, driven to pity by the sight. They did acquit her but it was probably not on account of pity but out of fear of condemning a rare beauty to death and thus depriving themselves of the potential of a lustful encounter with the courtesan.

    Don’t look at a naked female, especially if she is a goddess.

    The excuse or narrative camouflage employed to legitimize pictures of a male gaze at nude females has varied over time. In the early 20th century ancient myths were replaced by a number of pictorial fictions that reflected contemporary life. One of the most popular of these involved the kind of legitimate, concentrated looking at a nude model in the socially acceptable environment of an art class.

    Erotic in the male gaze still depends on notions of chance.

    With the evolution in sexual mores in the last half of the 20th century the requirement for a narrative context in the portrayal of a nude female in art disappeared. The ubiquity of representations in moving images, photography, painting and sculpture of the unclothed female body however, has not meant the end of storytelling in erotic image making. In large measure the erotic in the male gaze still depends on notions of chance and illicit or secret peeping. Hence the male gaze and delight in the interplay between concealing and revealing in fashion photography. The erotic intensity of this teasing of the male gaze is increased by role playing. This is thoroughly understood by women themselves who have since antiquity assumed roles as “vamps”, in effect, asserting their sexual power by working with the predilections of the male gaze.

    Art Provocateur is the premier online gallery of erotic art prints.  Browse our galleries of limited edition and one-of-a-kind artwork. We have the largest selection of erotic and nude art from both established artists and rising stars.

  • Woman with mouth covered by Marcel van der Vlugt

    Erotic Nude | Contemporary vs Abstract

    If you’re an erotic nude art enthusiast, you truly appreciate the form and sensuality of the human body. As an admirer, you may notice how the intricacies of the human figure transform with each...

    If you’re an erotic nude art enthusiast, you truly appreciate the form and sensuality of the human body. As an admirer, you may notice how the intricacies of the human figure transform with each different artistic style. Depending on whether the nude is a contemporary work or abstraction, the nature of the nude will adjust and change according to each style, manifesting itself differently to reflect the specific aesthetic approach.

    With abstract eroticism, we are invited to experience the female form in a new way; the imagery and colors are often distorted for an enhanced perspective. Comparatively, the contemporary erotic nude offers us a real-world view of today’s women, while sometimes also offering a critical standpoint from which to perceive female identity.

    If you have not yet broadened your tastes within the erotic nude genre, you can consider embracing versions across different styles. It’s outstanding to see how the nude’s beauty is reinvented through various creative modes.

    An erotic nude’s beauty is reinvented through various creative modes.

    With the conceptual approach, the contemporary artist is representing a theoretical issue that addresses culture or politics in a critical way. In response, we are invited to explore a current-day problem affecting global society. Marcel Van Der Vlugt shows conceptualism in his work, inviting us to explore a deeply loaded social issue regarding western women. His photograph depicts a woman wearing a mouth cover while having her voluptuous breasts exposed.

    Woman with mouth covered by Marcel van der Vlugt
    Marcel van der Vlugt | Woman (2001)

    There are many feminists and activists who feel such objectifications are cruel and misogynistic. Nevertheless, the woman’s nudity is also equated with sublimity and purity through the white flowers, which evoke a quiet beauty. Overall, there is special mysticism and fantasy surrounding this scene.

    In the case of the contemporary erotic nude art, we are encouraged to approach the scene with a more critical eye as opposed to merely appreciating its aesthetic value. With the contemporary nude, the artist will often utilize the naked body for either of two objectives: documental or conceptual.

    erotic nude girl bending over couch photographed by Simon Bolz
    Simon Bolz | Unnamed (2012)

    With the documental approach, the artist is depicting or exploiting today’s men or women to reflect the life and times in which they live. Simon Bolz reveals this contemporary theme through a realistic atmosphere. The woman’s made-up eyes and provocative stiletto heels offer a provocative sex stereotype, displayed amid a hardwood floor and ordinary present-day couch. These elements produce an overwhelming commonplace context, identifiable by the viewer, making it both arousing yet familiar.

    'Love Me' painting by artist Renu G
    Renu G | Love Me (2009)

    With abstract eroticism, on the other hand, we are encouraged to appreciate human physicality in an entirely new light. The colors and forms are expressed purely through the artists’ unique vision. As a result, the imagery is often deeply rooted in personal taste, leaving the formal elements distorted and expressive.

    Erotic imagery is shown poignantly in Renu G’s work, Lust, where she focuses on the provocative nature of line. Although the artist only leaves subtle marks on the canvas, she provides just enough information to suggest a strong sexual energy.

    Blue Flower painted by Georgia O’Keeffe in 1918
    Georgia O’Keeffe | Blue Flower (1918)

    Another superb example of erotic abstract art is the blue masterpiece “Flower” by Georgia O’Keeffe. While only subtly indicating the shape of a vagina, the artist gracefully appeals to our primal perceptions of the genitalia. The artist merely uses a variety of swift flower-like shapes, yet it’s still immediately identifiable and arousing.

    However, the use of blue makes this a compelling abstract work as this color is usually associated with coldness and distance. Conversely, the color red is often linked to passion and sensuality, making blue an interesting color choice for this particular piece. Nevertheless, this choice adds an odd sublimity and peacefulness that we do not often associate with the vagina, a symbol of empowerment and fertility. For this reason, the viewer can approach this work as an elegant expression of female eroticism.

    No matter which artistic style is being used to depict eroticism, there will almost always be a raw organic beauty in every piece. Whether the work is contemporary or abstract, you can appreciate the beauty and nature of nakedness in all its forms. Through each type of expression, the soul of nudity is celebrated through the artist’s unique lens, inviting you as the viewer to share the experience.

    Art Provocateur is the premier online gallery of erotic art prints.  Browse our galleries of limited edition and one-of-a-kind artwork. We have the largest selection of erotic and nude art from both established artists and rising stars.