press release

It is the first time in the Tretyakov Gallery that an exhibition project devoted entirely to the subject of nudity in domestic visual art has been established. The project is realized through two stages. The first one is this exhibition, the second is the exhibition of graphics, which opens in October 2014. They both portray the magic of the body and culture of the body as a source of creative experiences and as subject of perception of the plastic forms for artists from different eras and schools.

Cultural differences between concepts of "naked", "bare”, "nude", applied in modern philology, are apparent in visual art as well. The risk of genre nude which is attractive to many artists, is that in portraying the nudity, the level of good taste and skill of the artist is manifested particularly obviously and sharply, as it directly determines his ability to convey not the situation of "being undressed" but the aesthetic image of "nudity".

Works of artists of the XVIII-XX centuries, both of world-famous and of little-known, will allow us to see how the authors solved aesthetic, moral and ethical issues that troubled their contemporaries.

At different epochs, nude art was characterized either by allegoric and metaphorical nature, or by specified, tangible and physical nature, in other words, either by materiality and sensuality, or by idealized detachment. These are the qualities artists empower mythical heroes and ancient gods, specific characters and unknown sitters with.

The structure of the exhibition reveals the main genre range, where nudity was the starting point of the oeuvrefor Russian painters and sculptors.

In the section "In the Mirror of Myth", works of historical and mythological art genres of the XVIII – first half of the XIX century are collected. It is in these genres where the difference between attitudes of the artists of Classicism, Romanticism and early Academicism to the nudity is revealed. For example, in works of classical masters (I.A.Akimov, J.F.Kapkov), physical perfection of the body embodies the ideas of heroism, valor, spiritual ideal. Creating images of mythological characters, painters of the Romantic period (F.A.Bruni, K.P.Briullov) reflected the need of the viewer for admiration of the beautiful. For A.A.Ivanov, the plastic of the human body had become a way to express the internal motions of the spirit, which caused him to refuse from professional sitters and search for the characters for the painting "The Appearance of Christ before the People (Appearance of the Messiah)" (1837–1857) among ordinary Italians of all ages and physiques.

Works of the late XIX – early XX century, presented in the section "Artist's Studio", allow us to trace how artists were coming from exercising in classrooms, to independent tasking. For example, when portraying nude, V.A.Serov and his student N.P.Ulyanov valued "truth" and simplicity, while N.I.Feshin cherished decorative whimsicality that served for the conversion of the posing model into a spectacular image and a way of connecting reality with fantasy.

The scenes in which artists included nudity, are presented in the section "Angles And Plots”: from "ambrosial” samples of the “Italian genre" to brutal paintings of the "Jack of Diamonds" followers, from the strict and restrained style of K.S.Petrov-Vodkin who deprived the exterior of natural massiveness, to the ironic playfulness of TA Mavrina’s paintings.

The features of the aesthetics of 1920s–1930s can be perceived in the works of I.D.Shadr, V.I.Mukhina, A.A.Deineka. They reveal the image of chaste beauty, due to the clarity and simplicity of the forms. They are flesh filled with vital, creative power.

Painters of the second half of the XX century – D.D.Zhilinskii, E.E.Moiseenko, N.I.Andronov, L.N.Kirillova – combined recognizable specificity with allegorical abstraction. One of the main exhibits is the picture of AA Plastov "Spring" (1954), which once had caused a sensation, not by being the epitome of hedonism and eroticism, but by portraying the eternal beauty of women's physicality causing admiration, love and adoration.

All in all, the exhibition includes more than 70 works of painting and sculpture, including "Bare sitter in a hat" by M.F.Larionov (1910) and "Studio" by V.N.Yakovlev (early 1930s) which will be shown for the first time after the restoration. Allowing the viewer to consider the history of Russian artists portraying nudity for three centuries and to trace the basic developmental principles of this theme, the exhibition at the same time provides an opportunity for aesthetic experience and enjoyment of the best Russian art examples.