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The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form (The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts) Paperback – 21 Dec 1956


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Product details

  • Paperback: 583 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (21 Dec. 1956)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691097925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691097923
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 19.7 x 26 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,154,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The simple and often quite beautiful statement of a man of letters . . . [in] a book which is as much a pleasure to read as it is informative and provocative."--The New York Times

"A feminist critique of a male (and Western) view of the Tantric tradition [and also] a balanced reassessment of a tradition too long misunderstood."--Parabola

"Probably no one else alive today writes about art with Sir Kenneth's precise combination of intelligence, urbanity, and erudition. . . . This is an important book and a fascinating one, and the illustrations do much to illuminate it."--The New Yorker

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peasant TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
In 1956 this was the definitive work on the subject, and it is difficult to understand the way the portrayal of the unclothed human form was considered in Western art history until recently, without reading it. It is an easy, graceful read, well-written and amply illustrated with black and white photos inset in the text. This review is of the original edition, without the additions by Charles Saumarez Smith

Clark takes the classical world as its starting point, and then relates it to traditions from the Renaissance on. "Apollo" is the archetype of the rational male intellect, portrayed as a young athlete. "Venus" he distinguishes in the Western tradition both as the Celestial Venus; a portrayal of the female as something beyond the fleshly, and as Natural Venus, more human, accessible and sensual. "Energy" is the title he chooses for his discussion of figures in action, displaying speed, strength and agility in an idealised way. The chapters on "Pathos" and "Ecstasy" address both classical imagery and that of Christian iconography.

Chapter 8, "The Alternative Convention" is the first to really move away from the Mediterranean. In the Northern Renaissance, even artists like Durer had trouble with the human form; Clark says Durer could not understand that the solution was an attitude of mind, not some simple set of geometric parameters. Unclothed men and women, in northern art, look more like ordinary people caught unawares, not icons of the ideal. This is one of the more interesting chapters, because it highlights the fact that Clark's state of mind is itself rooted in the Mediterranean tradition, while modern treatments of the body are far more in the Northern mould.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Jun. 1997
Format: Hardcover
Whether you are a student of the arts, religion, history, or life you will learn from this work. Mr. Clark speaks with the authority of an educated and thoughtful expert on the subject and with the voice of a formidable author as well.

His work is as densely packed with meaning as you might expect to find in the writings of Reinhold Niehbur yet is possessed of a wonderfully literary mask. The writing is so well done, one might accidently read right over the meaning in the haste of seeing what will come next.

If you're the highlighting or underlining type, I'd recommend saving such marking for the second read as more of the true significance bubbles to the fore. Put aside your expectations of a "typical" art history text and prepare for an incredible enlightenment.

Enjoy!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Franks on 17 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is the Folio Society edition of this book, which is a lovely big hardback in a slip case with the pictured painting by Ingres printed directly on the cover.

It has about 200 images, less than my older edition (which has 300) but they're well chosen, and the quality of the reproductions is stunning - for example, I've never seen a reproduction of Manet's Olympia which didn't either lose the background detail or flatten the figure's detail; this does neither. In these days of easy googling of images, less images isn't much of a problem.
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