When I returned to UT in the early '80's, this time as a studio art major, freshmen were required to take two semesters of lifedrawing. A friend from church rebuked me for taking the class, as it was a "sin". Now, UT doesn't even offer freshman lifedrawing. For budgetary reasons. Less lifedrawing classes means less budget going to pay for the models. It's no secret in the art world that the best way to learn to draw is lifedrawing. Why? My theory is that we are hard-wired to notice the human face, the human body -- expression, body language. This captures our attention in a way that a still life never will. With the attention captured, we focus on the line, the form, the volume. As we master the figure, the skill transfers to other subjects a well: the landscape, the still life, etc.
Even in the liberal city of Austin (Austin is not really part of Texas, it is its own little world), the nude still shocks people. This dynamic baffles me. Americans, who watch R-rated movies with both nudity and truly pornographic violence, still find a painting, a drawing, a sculpture of the nude scandalous. When parents say, "I let my child watch that R-rated film, because it was "only" rated R for violence," I am perplexed. As if violence in movies doesn't numb us to violence in reality.
Sheesh. I blame the state of art education in our country. Few people have even a passing familiarity with art history. They know of Michelangelo's David, and would probably visit it if they found themselves in Florence. Perhaps they have seen images of Botticelli's Venus, from his painting "The Birth of Venus". They could visit her in Florence as well, at the Uffizzi Gallery, the house of so many of the greatest works of Western art. Would they flinch, seeing these works? The David was commissioned to stand in the public square, as a symbol of the city of Florence. Men, women and children walked by for centuries. Did they shield their eyes?
So, I offer images of both works. Judge for yourself. And make the pilgrimage to Florence before you die. You won't regret it.