Art: Shy About the Nude

Until the present century, it was often a rather risky business for an American artist to do a nude. When the painter John Vanderlyn exhibited an inoffensive Ariadne in New York in 1815, his great rival John Trumbull was able to stir up enough scandalized protests almost to ruin poor Vanderlyn forever. When William Page tried to exhibit his 1862 Venus in Boston, there was such an outcry that the painting was whisked from public view. At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where on Ladies' Day the Greek statues were draped, the great Thomas Eakins posed a male and...

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