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Naked: The Nude in America Hardcover – October 26, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 476 pages
  • Publisher: Rizzoli; 1St Edition edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847833666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847833665
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 1.7 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

It is important to note that the author of this oversize survey of the history of the representation of the male and female nude in American art is a cultural historian, not an art historian. That is an important fact for the reader to know upfront, not for judging the quality of his perceptions, but for realizing from the outset his perspective, which is announced in the first line of his introduction: “The mind-boggling contradictions of American culture are nowhere as obvious as in its constantly shifting attitudes towards the naked human body.” In theme-based chapters that move in chronological order from colonial to modern times, Dijkstra develops such topics as the changing perceptions of female roles in society, the “incursion” of physical realism, nudity for shock value, and the pin-up-girl craze, all augmented, of course, by a wondrous array of illustrations. For the student of cultural and art history; care should be taken by the librarian that pages are not lifted from the book. --Brad Hooper


"The Sexiest Nude Art You've Never Seen: A gorgeous new book, Naked by Bram Dijkstra, highlights the most famous, eye-popping, game-changing pieces of naked artwork in the world... Check out all of the envelope-pushing paintings, photographs, sketches, and sculptures in the new book Naked: The Nude in America by Bram Dijkstra" ~Cosmopolitan

"Naked is a thorough exploration of America's sometimes puritanical and sometimes perverse relationship with the nude in the visual arts. Dijkstra brilliantly illustrates more than four hundred and twenty American works portraying the naked body in a myriad of manifestations.  The book reads like an incisive lecture, sparing no criticism for American culture and its hypocrisies. The book features gorgeous artworks long hidden in museum vaults for fear of offending conservative patrons. From Andrew Wyeth to racy comicbook covers, Naked reveals the hidden history of the American nude in the first comprehensive book to be published on teh subject in more than thirty-five years. This is more than just an art book -- it is a long overdue statement about America's peculiar attitude towards the naked human body." ~THE

"...gorgeously illustrated book called Naked which explores the traditional, the beautiful, and the shocking in the portrayal of the nude in America... a tremendously beautiful coffee table book." ~KPBS Radio

"In 'Naked,' Dijkstra, a specialist in comparative literature who has written extensively about art, deftly assembles a richly illustrated history of the American nude that spans centuries and media, from Benjamin West's 18th century mythological scenes (naked cupids galore) through (tame) Edward Hopper paintings to Terry Richardon's lascivious photographs of pole dancers (my goodness)." ~ArtInfo.com

"Bram Dijkstra’s exploration of the history of nudity in American art is a bit of a two-for-one deal: a hybrid of controversial coffee table book and in-depth social and political treatise on American culture. Dijkstra, professor emeritus of comparative literature and cultural history at UC San Diego, is not a traditional art historian, nor does the work read like an art history book.
   Highlighting over 400 pieces depicting both male and female nudes, this eye-catching collection will quickly turn on any reader anticipating a quick flight-through. Dijkstra’s observations are deeply absorbing and unabashedly critical of the zipped-up Puritanism that has forced so many such works of art into the bottom rungs of the fine arts world. The author respectfully declares his subjectivity outright, and the resulting discussion proves irresistibly engaging.
   The selected works are organized by conversation topic, illustrating Dijkstra’s ideas and freeing the reader from any tiresome imposition of chronology. In a discussion on the notion of the ‘predatory woman,’ Frank Cho’s ‘Ape & Babe,’ a cartoon-ish watercolor and ink portrayal of a blue gorilla smoking a cigarette and carrying a naked, rose-crowned blond on its back, appears opposite James Allen St. John’s ‘Ave Pan,’ an oil painting of two classically-inspired grape-bunch-wielding nudes making an offering to an idol.
   Other talking points range from pinup girls to pubic hair, but the book never strays from its well-informed and refreshingly readable focus on America’s tumultuous relationship with the human body." ~City Arts

Customer Reviews

It is for mature audiences!
kelly mitchell
This hefty book presents the nude in American art, photography, and popular culture, from the eighteenth century to the present.
Grady Harp
Certainly good food for thought.
Karen Hunter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Robert L. Pincus on November 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Bram Dijkstra's books have encompassed literature, art and popular culture. His approach has yielded excellent studies of a wide variety of subjects, from Expressionism in American art to Georgia O'Keeffe to the sinister view of women in Fin-De-siecle European Culture.
Dijkstra confronts a grand scale subject in the beautifully designed "Naked: The Nude in America," a generously illustrated volume that takes us from works by iconic early artists, such as Benjamin West and John Trumbull, to familiar figures of our age, including Robert Mapplethorpe, Andrew Wyeth, Lee Friedlander and Eleanor Antin.
The clarity of his text is a pleasure. Dijkstra's insights about the contradictory American attitude toward the body, alternately Puritanical and accepting, are sharply focused. This is a book that will appeal equally to the general reader and the highly informed one.
"Naked" is thick with visual riches from the history of drawing, painting, photography and illustration in America and the quality of the reproductions is extremely high. This is also the first focused study of the nude in American art to appear in decades -- and it's hard to fathom why, seeing how rich a subject this is in Dijkstra's new book.
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35 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Alan Fishman on October 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like everything else, increasing numbers of art books are being manufactured in China. In general, I have found the quality of the physical books manufactured in China to be well below books made in Italy or Germany or even the United States. Specific to this book, the lower corners of the pages along the spine are not anchored and pop out as you turn the page. Also the stitching for securing the pages is highly visible. You almost never see this in a well manufactured book. The book also feels like it will be falling a part in six months of even light usage. My sympathy goes out to the author. His publisher has essentially trashed his excellent scholarly and curatorial effort by putting out a poorly constructed book. He deserves better. I will be returning the book to Amazon today for a refund.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Bram Dijkstra is a professor emeritus of comparative literature and cultural history at the University of California, San Diego. Because of his background it is not surprising that this book on art of the nude in America should be more focused on a dissertation about cultural mores and the changes that have taken place since the beginning of the country's history. It makes for excellent reading and does provide ample examples of how we as a society view both the famale and male nude and why times alter the 'correct' art perception.

This hefty book presents the nude in American art, photography, and popular culture, from the eighteenth century to the present. There are some 400 illustrations exploring the history of the subject from its earliest manifestations in the paintings of John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West to the taboo-shredding imagery of late-twentieth-century artists such as Alice Neel, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eric Fischl, and John Currin. While many of the art works are familiar (Mapplethorpe and Arthur Tress are certainly as familiar as the paintings of Keith Haring, Judy Chicago, David Ligare, Charles Demuth, etc), there are many works by artists less well known such as William James' sculptural pieces, the art of Renee Cox, Wayne Healy, Richard Artschwager and even 'The Girlie Show' by the esteemed Edward Hopper!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter Baklava on December 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I have a little different "take" on this book. I commend the publisher for being fearless in putting out an unapologetic, utterly honest examination of the different types of iconic images of the body over the decades in the United States, with particular emphasis on the Puritanical tradition of seeing the naked body as shameful.

In that light, I read the book as sort of a history of the limited ways that curiosity about the body could be satisfied in America. Most of the paintings and photographs in this book were executed by men, and most depict women, although there are some exceptions. So, in a fashion, the images reflect on the popular conceptions of women over the decades, masculine fears about women, and forms of both idealization and degradation. Mr. Dijkstra, the author, comments at length on the types of social taboos and attitudes about sexuality that were reflected in the images. His insights are very acute. He also comments on the resistance he encountered to his very idea of compiling and publishing the book.

So, I look at the book as a catalogue of the types of imagery that satisfied what might be called prurience, or simply the natural need to seek out knowledge about the human body. During times when pornography was completely underground, art (both in high and low forms) fulfilled this function. It was typical for adolescents to seek out what was available in public libraries and commercial venues: pin-ups, pulp novels, "U.S. Camera" volumes, and books with examples of figurative art. Until the 1950's, the images available were for the most part extremely demure. Nevertheless, because of the purpose the images served, they were still seen as shameful.
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Naked: The Nude in America
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