One hundred nude images inspired by the Classical past on display at the University of Sydney
's Nicholson Museum
during January's Sydney Festival (from January 4 to April 17 2011). Exposed: Photography and the Classical Nude is a celebration of the naked human body in photography - and of the influence of the Classical ideal of ancient Greece and Rome on that art form.
From the 1840s to the present day, many of the great names of photography are represented including: Henry Fox Talbot, Eadweard Muybridge, Wilhelm von Gloeden, Leni Riefenstahl, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chim, Brassai, Robert Doisneau, Herbert List, Max Dupain and Lewis Morley.
Seventy five percent of the exhibition has travelled from the United States, drawn from the extensive collection of Florida lawyer William K Zewadski and from his subsequent donations to the Tampa Museum of Art and the St Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts.
The Josef Lebovic Gallery of Sydney has provided access to works by Max Dupain, Lewis Morley and David Potts. Additional photographs are by Australian photographers Rowan Conroy and Michael Myers, and from the Nicholson Museum's own historical collection. Finally the first photograph in the exhibition, the moment of discovery of the beautiful statue of Antinous, at Delphi in 1894, comes from the French School in Athens.
Curator Michael Turner says the exhibition looks at the use and abuse of the nude or naked body, both human and sculptured, in the development of photography.
"In the 1840s, Fox Talbot used Greek statues as models because, unlike humans, they kept still. In the 1890s, von Gloeden was exploiting local Sicilian boys as naked models in fulfillment of his own and others' fantasies. This was the perfect example of the Classical Alibi - the use of the perceived morals of the past to justify those of the present."
The exhibition does not seek to shock says Turner. Seen together, he believes "there is a magnificent beauty to the correlation between the human body and the ancient perception of the sculpted body. This is seen to perfection in the 1920s image of the body builder Tony Sansone taken by Edwin Townsend in the days before a modern fixation on muscle bulk and penis size."
In the Australian context, the exhibition explores the display of nude art in Sydney's Botanic Gardens in the early 1900s and the subsequent morality campaign that saw much of its removal in the 1910s.
Exposed: Photography and the Classical Nude is being held in conjunction with a related exhibition at the University of Sydney Art gallery, Exposed: Art and the Naked Body. Also curated by Turner, it includes works from the University's own collection and that of the Hon Justice Roddy Meagher.