Letter: Nothing rude about the nude
Tuesday 14 February 1995
Sir: What a pity that Southampton University's censorious senior lecturer in population studies, Dr Mair Ni Bhrolchin, should have fallen under John Berger's fatuous exercise in political correctness, Ways of Seeing, and not Kenneth Clark's The Nude. The elegant first paragraph alone of the latter might well have saved her:
The English language, with its elaborate generosity, distinguishes between the naked and the nude. To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes and the word implies some of the embarrassment which most of us feel in that condition. The word nude, on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenceless body, but of a balanced, prosperous and confident body: the body reformed. In fact, the word was forced into our vocabulary by critics of the early 18th century in order to persuade the artless islanders that in countries where paintings and sculpture were practised and valued as they should be, the naked human body was the central subject of art.
East Barnet, Hertfordshire
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