Art and eroticism have shared a close relationship from the beginning of mankind. Depictions of fertility in the form of phallus and genitalia have been found everywhere in ancient Rome and Greece. Images of copulation have also been discovered from prehistoric times in the rock carvings of the Xinjiang region in China. According to Chinese archeologist Wang Binghua, the images depicting a wild orgy dates back to 3,000 - 4,000 years.
Artists from different parts of the world, like Japan and India, have painted explicit sex scenes aesthetically and openly. You might know the Indian work Kamasutra that details unimaginable sex positions and ways to indulge in sensual pleasure.
Erotic are grew its roots all over the world, including Europe, much later during the eighteenth-century. The works of Jean-Antoine Watteau and Jean-Honoré Fragonard opened a new perception of sensuality to the world. This form of art survived the censorship of the church and took a new turn during the artistic revolution of the twentieth century.
Today, we are going to take a look at some of the paintings that challenged the views of society at those times. These works of art are truly masterpieces and still influence painters with the spirit of eroticism.
The Nude Maja by Francisco de Goya
Goya never thought his painting would go on to become one of the most iconic frontal nudes featuring a woman. The artist made the painting for the personal collection of Manuel de Godoy in 1797 – 1800. At that time, the church had banned the display of nudes, so the 'Nude Maja' never found a place in exhibitions.
The painting attracted a bit of controversy as it portrayed a woman's pubic hair for the first time. Goya also created a censored version of the painting, 'The Clothed Maja,' but it also came under the censorship of the church. That’s not all that there is to it. Some of the other erotic paintings deserve a mention too - here is a look at some of the other well-known ones that have caught the imagination of many.
Young Girl Bathing by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
This 1892 painting is considered one of the most beautiful works by Renoir. It features a nude young girl in her early teens against an Impressionist backdrop with jade-green trees. The solitary girl with flowing auburn hair can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The painting has a unique history. It was bought at that time by Claude Monet, another French Impressionist painter who never painted nudes. Monet became a fan of Renoir and bought many from his Bathers series. He also bought works of other artists to add to his collection of nude paintings.
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus is one of Botticelli's most famous works. Made in 1485, the painting depicts the goddess of love and beauty on the island of Cyprus. Though not entirely erotic, the nude portrayal of the goddess was probably commissioned by the Medici family. You can see the painting at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It's still considered one of the most beautiful depictions of women in the fifteenth-century.
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The Origin of the World by Gustave Courbet
A strong proponent of the Realism movement, 'The Origin of the World', is perhaps the boldest work of all times by Courbet. The painting depicts the abdomen and genitals of a woman from close, but we cannot see the face covered by a sheet. The eroticism of the work has been highlighted by the form of the woman itself, with legs and arms out of the view.
Gustave believed in capturing only what he saw, making his painting as close to reality as possible. You might even mistake it for a photograph when you look at the painting for the first time!
Frau Bei Der Selbstbefriedigung by Gustav Klimt
Klimt had always been an admirer of the female body, and naturally, all his paintings bear a spirit of eroticism. The 'Frau Bei Der Selbstbefriedigung' is one of the most explicit paintings of all times, showing a woman busy pleasuring herself. The symbolist painter has heavily inspired by Japanese art forms, and you can see the influence even in this painting.
Klimt has had his share of controversies for his bold paintings. The most controversial was his works for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna, which were deemed as pornographic by critics of those times.
The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Katsushika Hokusai
Since we mentioned Japanese artwork, here's a bold entry from the genre of Japanese shunga art. Painted by Katsushika Hokusai, the painting shows a woman having sex with...wait...an octopus?!
We will never know if the fisherman's wife really dreamt of having sex with an octopus, but we do know this is one of the most erotic and bizarre paintings from the pages of history!
If you go back in time, you will find many examples of erotic art not only in painting but also in literature, sculpture, cave paintings, and scriptures. If you want to tell us about any painting that we missed, do leave your opinions in the comments.
Which one of these is your favorite painting? Let us know below.