Ancient Nudes

12 Mar

12 ice age 1

Husb and I have just come back from a few days in London being culture vultures. Top on our agenda was The British Museum. I always get in a visit whenever I’m in London. It’s one of my all-time favourite places. I’m embarrassed that it’s full of plunder from our imperialist past but it is so awesome to have all these magnificent cultural treasures in one place. And it’s free – well, mostly. We managed to get tickets for the Ice Age Art exhibition. It is truly amazing.

I’m often asked why I work mainly with the nude. It’s because it’s a very old tradition in European art, starting with the Greeks about 2,500 years ago (and a millenium or so before that, in Mesopotamia). But as I’ve just found out, this tradition was well established in Europe way back in the Stone Age. These magnificent sculptures of the female nudes (above) go back 20,000 to 30,ooo years in European culture. They are very voluptuous and celebrate pregnant women or those who have had a number of children. The figure from France was very influential on Picasso who had a copy in his studio.

12 ice age 2

By the late Stone Age, about 13,000 years ago, the style of representing the female nude had changed to a more streamlined and abstract form, much less voluptuous. These could almost be Modiglianis. I was glad to see other people sketching at the exhibition, as drawing the artefacts helped me to connect with those ancient artists; trying to understand how they worked gave me a depth of analysis that I wouldn’t have achieved by taking photographs.

11 Responses to “Ancient Nudes”

  1. Lynn Howarth March 28, 2013 at 02:49 #

    Fabulous Rosie – I always learn something new when I read your blogs! Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Nigel Brooke March 13, 2013 at 20:15 #

    Somewhere, (British Museum ?) there’s a fabulous tiny clay nude figure of a ( possibly pregnant ? ) woman with about 10 breasts on her torso. Personally, I wouldn’t say it was erotic although Kenneth Clarke who probably was the author of “The Nude” said if the naked female, perhaps male as well ?, human figure didn’t stir some feelings of eroticism, it wasn’t working. Perhaps a bit of a sweeping statement but we all used to think we were clever in the 1950s to do that. Now we are certain we are not !

    Museum states / or stated it was thought to be a devotional statue with religious significance. or I say perhaps it was made by a man who just liked breasts. One million papers sold every day on this basis if it still goes on. Or perhaps it was made by a woman. Or perhaps in Neolithic times there was one woman who happened to have 10 breasts.

    The “milk line” runs down two pathways in women and also in men so there are rare examples of people having unexpected breasts in unexpected locations on the body. All part of Nature’s wonder and experiments.

    Rien n’est certain. We know nothing. “Masters of the Universe” ? Phooey !

    Here in Laugharne , part of the village gets flooded at the equinoxes; there are idiots on Carmarthen County Council who want to raise levees to stop it. There are strong objections to this from the residents who, unconsciously and probably never articulated are atavists and know you should (ever hopeful ! ) NEVER tinker with Nature !

    • Rosie Scribblah March 13, 2013 at 20:29 #

      I’ll have to look out for that. It rings a bell but I think I might have seen it in a book, rather than The British Museum. There were two pieces in this exhibition of women squattng to give birth, quite abstract but very accurate all the same. Maybe there was some 10 breasted earth mother living in a cave somewhere 🙂

  3. Nancy Farmer March 13, 2013 at 09:43 #

    Thanks for the reminder… keep meaning to go! Entirely with you on nudes – mostly I would prefer not to put clothes on my figures but I often have to for compositional / narrative purposes. The thing is, clothes are not structural, they flap about and say not a lot about form and balance and all those lovely things about nudes…. Or maybe I am just rubbish at drawing clothes because I don’t do them from life 😉

    • Rosie Scribblah March 13, 2013 at 13:46 #

      Once you put clothes on, they take on a different meaning. They are invested with class, status, statement etc…. Good for portraiture but otherwise……

  4. ms6282 March 12, 2013 at 22:31 #

    I agree that making sketches makes you look so much more closely at the objects. I wish I had your talent. Alas, I don’t and have to rely on photos to remind me of what I’ve seen.

  5. notes to the milkman March 12, 2013 at 22:30 #

    Yes, I really enjoyed it when I saw it a couple of weeks ago. Like yourself, I appreciated the “real nudes” for the early part of the exhibition. Did you enjoy the shop at the end? They had milk and white chocolate ammonites among other rubbish! 🙂

    • Rosie Scribblah March 12, 2013 at 23:00 #

      The only think I fancied was the Werner Herzog film. Got some nice stuff in the bookshop though 🙂


  1. Black On Black | scribblah - March 16, 2013

    […] a fab week. At the start Husb and I were in London for a few days, taking in some exhibitions. The Ice Age Art show at the British Museum was fantastic and it’s influence stayed with me during life drawing […]

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