Born like Venus on the half shell from the centuries-long tradition of the nude in painting, the nude first appeared as a subject matter in photography with the introduction of the medium itself, between 1837 and 1840, and has continued as an ever-evolving theme through changing technical developments and cultural mores to the present day. This volume surveys the subject of nudity from the earliest surviving photographs of Greek and Roman sculpture through studies of living nude models for aesthetic or scientific purposes to the burgeoning practice of exploring the human body as pure form.
The seventy-eight works, selected from the extensive collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum and further contextualized here in the essay “Masterworks of the Nude,” span the entire arc of the history of photography in a manner that is both fresh and illuminating. Among the sixty-four photographers included are nineteenth-century masters Julia Margaret Cameron, Edgar Degas, and Thomas Eakins; early-twentiethcentury artists Man Ray, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Weston; mid-twentieth-century innovators Bill Brandt, Harry Callahan, and Minor White; late-twentieth-century image makers Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Herb Ritts; and contemporary artists Chuck Close, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, and Mona Kuhn.
Paul Martineau is associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. He is the author of Paul Outerbridge: Command Performance (Getty Publications, 2009), Herb Ritts: L.A. Style (Getty Publications, 2012), and Eliot Porter: In the Realm of Nature (Getty Publications, 2012).