Nude for Thought artists (l-r) Martin Ireland, Neil Groom and Richard Dickson
Painting by Nude for Thought artists (l-r): Martin Ireland, Neil Groom and Richard Dickson

What is wrong with the naked male form? From Monty Python’s The Life of Brian to The Full Monty, men’s rude bits continue to be exploited for comedic value, their innate beauty hushed up and kept firmly behind closed doors.

But a group of male artists seeks to change all that, by holding an exhibition that reconsiders the raw form of the naked male body and reestablishes the tradition of the male nude as an object of beauty and bearer of meaning.

Re-Defining Beauty, which opens at the Leyden Gallery this month, provides a contemporary take on traditional art historical portrayals of the male nude form.

Inspired by the British Museum exhibition Defining Beauty, which looked at the origins of representing the human body in art, the week-long show features a range of mixed media art works that question terms such as ‘beautiful’, ‘powerful’, and ‘masculine’ in relation to the male form.

Nude by Brian Dennis
Nude by Brian Dennis

Artist Martin Ireland founded Nude for Thought after becoming frustrated at the tendency for life drawing groups to use mainly female models.

In 2004 Ireland created a life-drawing group that used male models exclusively.

As the popularity of the life drawing sessions increased, discussions arose about the relevance of the male nude in 21st century art.

Many of the artists had experienced difficulty in exhibiting male nudes in commercial galleries, or were rejected when entering paintings of the male body in open competitions.

It was from those discussions that Nude for Thought was formed. The group, which brings together painting, drawing, sculpture and performance art, held its first exhibition in Southwark last November.

“Is there a place for the male form in contemporary decorative art,” a statement on the group’s website reads. “And if so, who will look at it through fresh eyes?”

Nude for Thought is at Leyden Gallery, Leyden Street, E1 7LE from 3–7 November.

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