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Title: The nude in the work of early 20th century Maltese artists : 1900-1950
Authors: Galea, Robert (2011)
Keywords: Nude in art
Art, Modern -- 20th century -- Malta
Christian art and symbolism -- Malta
Issue Date: 2011
Abstract: This dissertation documents and analyses a large number of works of the nude dating to the early twentieth century, executed by various Maltese artists. In the majority of cases, these works were largely scattered in private collections around the island and were never published. Moreover, monographs on Maltese artists tend to somehow isolate the artist’s works from those by his peers and, therefore, seem to lack a comparative approach. This is the very first time that a wide spectrum of works of the nude, executed by Maltese artists, are being analysed under one roof. Needless to say, the context into which these works were produced is also discussed. The early twentieth century Maltese context was largely prohibitive of issues of nudity due to the major influence the Catholic Church exerted on Maltese society and culture. Back then, the Church was viewed as the major shaping force of cultural identity. The unclad body was viewed as bad and, thus, was considered immoral to having young art students attending life classes where models undress themselves for art’s sake. These circumstances and prejudices that the body was always connotated with, prevented the subject from rooting itself deeply into the Maltese artistic scene of the time. Nevertheless, artists still struggled to introduce it. Probably, the most mentioned of all is Josef Kalleya, who courageously started life-classes in his private studio in Valletta as a reaction to this banishing of the nude. Before this period, the nude was almost only explored in the religious realm, being included in narratives as to justify its appearance. The nude symbolised defeat and degradation of humanity. Dr. G. Schembri Bonaci’s papers on the nude in Maltese art were highly significant in providing me a solid ground on which the works could be analysed and discussed. These papers compare and contrast the Maltese context with the international, as to not completely isolate the Maltese islands from their real context. Although strategically the Maltese islands are isolated from the other European countries, its artists had since the baroque period travelled to Roman academies for study purposes. Mainland Italy was, therefore, a major shaping force for the Maltese context. Therefore, this dissertation contrasts the Maltese works with the international specimens which the former found really appealing at the time. This attempt reached rather interesting conclusions, continuing to emphasise that the Maltese early twentieth century artists kept close ties to the Italian mainstream, whilst ignoring the avant-garde principles such as those tackled by the futurists and other international artists, who also worked in the art capital of modern art, Paris. This situation seems to have channelled the Maltese artist into exploring the traditional figurative scheme. Other important facets discussed in the following pages are the definitions of the nude and the naked. Kenneth Clark’s and John Berger’s attempts to categorise works of the nude under these two states, proved to be very instrumental in influencing my approach towards the Maltese specimens. Therefore, very modestly, this dissertation may be considered as the very first attempt at categorising very systematically the works under either nudity or nakedness. There are some works, however, which can fall under both categories. In these cases, the work was grouped under its most predominant form of the two. Being very central in the evolution of art, the nude is a widely debated subject. This encouraged various reactions to challenge each other and to provide an interesting array of theoretical work to the reader spectator. I sincerely hope that this dissertation provides a valid attempt at tackling the nude in Maltese art and at provoking and contributing ideas in a similar manner.
Description: M.A.HIST.OF ART
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArtHa - 2013

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