Curator Penny Grist provides some insights. Bareness is deliberate. Bareness is a chosen degree of dress somewhere between the clothed public self and unclothed private self. Modern portraiture is a public form, but reveals something of the sitter's private life. Bareness is not as refined a garment as the nudity historian Seymour Howard called 'the most subtle and sophisticated form of clothing'. In Bare: Degrees of undress , the National Portrait Gallery has brought together almost all of the portraits in its collection where sitters appear in states of undress. Within the exhibition, the portraits are arranged according to the role that bareness plays in enunciating something about the sitter's humanity or identity. Many of the portraits in the exhibition negotiate a sense of 'public privacy'—the revelation in a public portrait of those parts of the body and elements of life usually located in the private sphere. Sexuality, intimacy, personality, anxiety and imagination have traditionally dwelt in private life and been embodied in nakedness. In this sphere of the unconcealed body, emotion and hope, doubt and uncertainty appear on the surface of modern portraiture that seeks to reveal something of sitters' inner lives.
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The last time the world looked at the glamour girl of the pool she was winning her first individual Olympic gold medal at the Athens Games. There's a lot more of the year-old swimmer on view in the July issue of Playboy, where a topless Beard is on the cover billed as "the world's sexiest athlete nude". After all, she's modelled in men's magazines before, notably a spread in FHM that left little to the imagination.
The photos are sparse, passport snap cold, shot against a plain background with no retouching. Freed from its usual lair, lurking within computers accessed on a lonely night, and released blinking into the glow of a thousand halogen spotlights pointed towards stark museum walls. The oil painting depicts the diver in a Sistine Chapel pose but with a rich dollop of rippling six-pack. Athletes are in abundance. Grist says this is partly because it echoes the role of the nude in Ancient Greece that represented almost God-like physical prowess. Nonetheless, Grist believes the Australian attitude towards nakedness is more relaxed than the British. Manscapes photography, Byron Bay, Australia. Photographer John Bortolin.