The words “naked” and “nude” are defined as synonyms by the American Heritage Dictionary. “Naked” entered the English language from the German nakt, while “nude” derives from the French nu. Through centuries of use, the words have taken on subtle distinctions.
The ideal nude, often inspired by the poses of classical sculpture, has been viewed as the most noble subject in Western art since antiquity. During the 19th century, this tradition remained strong, even as Impressionist artists sought to represent the naked body with a new, unwavering realism.
The Modern tendency toward abstracted and expressive form means that depictions of the body diverge from classical, academic and realist ideals. Yet, the notion that to be naked is to be exposed and vulnerable, while to be nude is to be comfortable and at ease, remains valid in 20th-century art.
Emil Nolde, German (1867-1956). Christ and the Sinner, 1911. Etching and drypoint. Gift of Jane Wade in memory of Curt Valentin, 55-73/13.