Author Topic: Nude art Sinful?  (Read 27791 times)

Offline Older Salt

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Nude art Sinful?
« on: September 23, 2013, 11:54:23 AM »
I have a quick question.

I am a big fan of Andrew Wyeths work.

Problem is, whenever I look through his work, the "Helga Pictures" pop up.

Is it a sin to see this art?

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Offline Maximilian

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2013, 12:39:50 PM »
I am a big fan of Andrew Wyeths work.

Problem is, whenever I look through his work, the "Helga Pictures" pop up.

Is it a sin to see this art?

Viewing art is not an action that is objectively sinful. Viewing art that contains nude figures becomes problematic.

We have the example of Michelangelo's "Last Judgment." But a subsequent pope objected to the nude figures and had underclothes painted over them. It does seem, at the very least, a bit aberrant to have so many nude figures directly over an altar where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered.

The obvious answer is "If it presents an occasion of sin for you." Which means that some people could perhaps view a particular painting without any occasion of sin, while others could not. This would not be as strange as it sounds if you consider the example of doctors who are forced to view human nudity. They are doing it as a duty of charity, not as an occasion of sin, and the same might be said for someone who is an art historian.

However, we know from many news stories that even doctors are not exempt from the concupiscence of the flesh. Some things have an intrinisic action on the human soul whether you like it or not, whether you intend it or not. You could compare it to taking drugs. Even if you say, "I am a doctor, and I am taking this dose of LSD in the interest of science," nevertheless the drug will still have an effect on you which might prove deleterious.

The same can be true of nudity. Even if your intentions are good and you are viewing the art in the interest of science, it could still have a deleterious effect on your soul. There is, for example, the homo-erotic art of Robert Mapplethorpe. You would want to avoid viewing that under any circumstances, no matter what your intentions.

In the spectrum between Michelangelo and Mapplethorpe, it's not always easy to judge where a particular work of art falls. What was the intention of the artist? What is the effect on the viewer?

An example is Bouguereau. He is very popular among traditional Catholics because of his many outstanding paintings of devotional subjects. However, he also painted a number of works depicting romantic love which include nude subjects. Some of his painting to me appear to teeter on the borderline between art  and pornography. Seeing some of his paintings as a viewer, I wonder which effect do I feel more strongly, the art or the sensuousness?

The simple fact that something is "Art" does not clear it of culpability, I would think. There can be something which is genuinely "art" in the sense of the quality of the work and even the serious intention of the artist, and yet it is still innately dangerous and inherently an occasion of sin for anyone who views it.

In the book "Purgatory" by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, he tells of a soul that appeared to a living person in order to beg for assistance to get out of purgatory. The soul had been a painter several hundred years previously, and he had painted some very good devotional works, but he had also painted some sensuous ones. Later he repented of the sensuous painting, but when he died there was one still in circulation. He came back after spending a few hundred years in purgatory to beg this person to destroy that painting, because he could never be released as long as it was still creating occasions of sin for people who viewed it.
 

Offline ImperialGuardsman

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2013, 01:42:32 PM »
I think it is at least a near occasion of sin.  Some paintings may not evoke any lustful reactions, but others could.  I'd lean on the side that says to stay away from them.
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Offline Adeodatus

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2013, 02:19:14 PM »

Is it a sin to see this art?


No. Unless it creates a problem.

Keep  in mind that when considering virtue, the mean is relative to the individual. The mean in the consumption of alcohol, for example, varies considerably between a habitually sober man in good health (who could drink several drinks) and a man who is an alcoholic (who cannot drink even one drink). Likewise, the mean of physical exertion differs between a fit man and a man in poor health, etc.

It is sometimes joked that teenage boys will become excited even over a National Geographic special. So if your reaction to the Helga paintings is in that vein then of course you ought to avoid them. I'm afraid there's simply no magic formula in ethics to establish these determinations beforehand, which is why ethics is not considered an exact science.

Bouguereau was mentioned above. He is my favorite artist and I would recommend any of his works to virtually anyone. To me they provide such a transport and elevation of the mind that I consider them practically in a separate class from other works. Though really I think that's simply what it is like to find 'your' artist as it were... someone who sees the world as you know that you ought to see it. Nevertheless, I admit that it's possible that someone would be "turned on" by one of his paintings. If that's true I pity that person, but until they receive the necessary therapy I suppose Bouguereau must remain beyond their reach. The idea of it actually makes me a bit sad, but that's the way it is with a lot of things. Some people have trouble digesting beef, some people's constitution cannot endure a warm brownie drizzled with caramel and chocolate, some people can stand on top of a mountain but not be able to see even a foot in front of them. That's the nature of ailments, I suppose.
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Offline Maximilian

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2013, 04:35:39 PM »
Nevertheless, I admit that it's possible that someone would be "turned on" by one of his paintings. If that's true I pity that person, but until they receive the necessary therapy I suppose Bouguereau must remain beyond their reach. The idea of it actually makes me a bit sad, but that's the way it is with a lot of things.

This is so ignorant, rude and insulting that it's not possible to reply.

If anyone has any doubts about the matter, they can simply go to:

http://www.bouguereau.org/

The website has copies of all his paintings, and the default selection is sorted by popularity. On the first page you will see a number of images that represent very problematic viewing. There is no question that the intention of the artist was to make them erotic. I'm not posting any of the images here, since I don't think they're appropriate for a traditional Catholic discussion board.

Anyone who still has questions can consider the fact that a search for images of Bourguereau's paintings turns up the fact that a website dedicated to erotic art has a special page dedicated to Bourguereau.
 

Offline Elizabeth

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2013, 05:00:33 PM »


The same can be true of nudity. Even if your intentions are good and you are viewing the art in the interest of science, it could still have a deleterious effect on your soul. There is, for example, the homo-erotic art of Robert Mapplethorpe. You would want to avoid viewing that under any circumstances, no matter what your intentions.



Hi Max,

I wandered into room full of  Mappelthorpe hard core photos at a museum.   (IMO saying homo erotic is too polite)  I can assure you, many years later I'm still horrified. As an art student and one who has been around art and artists my entire life, I've seen much that I should not have.  I place Mappelthorp in a category of damage which I have no words for. Don't EVER go near it!

That's really a fascinating story about the painter!!  I am grateful to the good priest who advised me to burn about 15 large canvasses when he did.  May God bless him.


 

Offline Maximilian

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2013, 05:32:27 PM »
That's really a fascinating story about the painter!!  I am grateful to the good priest who advised me to burn about 15 large canvasses when he did.  May God bless him.

Wow, so you're a really serious painter! Judging from the fact that you would even have 15 large canvases to burn, you must be more than just a dilettante dabbler. You don't happen to live in Kentucky do you?

And speaking of Bourguereau, the nuns of Round Top should have consulted you first, and then maybe they wouldn't have made that $2 million mistake that we discussed in the past.
 

Offline Adeodatus

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2013, 08:28:10 PM »

If anyone has any doubts about the matter, they can simply go to:

http://www.bouguereau.org/


Good suggestion. Everyone should go there and find out if he's a hopeless prude and dullard, or if he's able to appreciate fine art.
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Offline LouisIX

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2013, 08:53:23 PM »
Can we please refrain from name-calling?  Just because someone disagrees with you, or even is unable to immediately see the truth, does not make them an idiot, prude, philistine, or any other insulting term one would like to use.
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Offline nmoerbeek

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2013, 11:09:46 PM »
"A painter of great skill and otherwise exemplary life had once made a painting not at all comformable to the strict rules of Christian modesty. It was one of those paintings which, under the pretext of being works of art, are found in the best families, and the sight of which causes the loss of so many souls. True art is an inspiration from Heaven, which elevates the soul to God; profane art, which appeals to the senses only, which presents to the eye nothing but the beauties of flesh and blood, is but an inspiration of the evil spirit; his works, brilliant though they may be, are not works of art, and the name is falsely attributed to them. They are the infamous productions of a corrupt imagination. The artist of whom we speak had allowed himself to be misled in this point by bad example. Soon, however, renouncing this pernicious style, he confined himself to the production of religious pictures, or at least of those which were perfectly irreproachable. Finally, he was painting a large picture in the convent of the discalced Carmelites, when he was attacked by. a mortal malady, Feeling that he was about to die, he asked the Prior to allow him to be interred in the church of the monastery, and bequeathed to the community his earnings, which amounted to a considerable sum of money, charging them to have Masses said for the repose of his soul. He died in pious sentiments, and a few days passed, when a Religious who had stayed in the choir after Matins saw him appear in the midst of flames and sighing piteously. "What!" said the Religious, " have you to endure such pain, after leading so good a life and dying so holy a death?" "Alas!" replied he, " it is on account of the immodest picture that I painted some years ago. When I appeared before the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, a crowd of accusers came to give evidence against me. They declared that they had been excited to improper thoughts and evil desires by a picture, the work of my hand. In consequence of those bad thoughts some were in Purgatory, others in Hell. The latter cried for vengeance, saying that, having been the cause of their eternal perdition, I deserved, at least, the same punishment. Then the Blessed Virgin and the saints whom I had glorified by my pictures took up my defence. They represented to the Judge that that unfortunate painting had been the work of youth, and of which I had repented; that I had repaired it afterwards by religious objects which had been a source of edification to souls." In consideration of these and other reasons, the Sovereign Judge declared that, on account of my repentance and my good works, I should be exempt from damnation; but at the same time, He condemned me to these flames until that picture should be burned, so that it could no longer scandalise any one." Then the poor sufferer implored the Religious to take measures to have the painting destroyed. "I beg of you," he added, "go in my name to such a person, proprietor of the picture; tell him in what a condition I am for having yielded to his entreaties to paint it, and conjure him to make a sacrifice of it. If he refuses, woe to him! To prove that this is not an illusion, and to punish him for his own fault, tell him that before long he will lose his two children. Should he refuse to obey Him who has created us both, he will pay for it by a premature death." The Religious delayed not to do what the poor soul asked of him, and went to the owner of the picture. The latter, on hearing these things, seized the painting and cast it into the fire. Nevertheless, according to the words of the deceased, he lost his two children in less than a month. The remainder of his days he passed in penance, for having ordered and kept that immodest picture in his house. If such are the consequences of an immodest picture, what, then, will be the punishment of the still more disastrous scandals resulting from bad books, bad papers, bad schools, and bad conversations?"  From Purgatory, By Father Schouppe SJ, 1920

" we admire the beauty of the nude, not the nudity of the beauty." Pope Pius XII, could not find the attribution source

I believe this is an area that involves different opinions unless someone can show me otherwise.  One should consider the different opinions and then pray about it.  If one holds any moral doubt that viewing such an image is a sin, than he should refrain from viewing it. 
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Offline Bonaventure

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2013, 12:11:53 AM »
Never heard of this guy nor these paintings, so I googled them. They are certainly immodest, but not erotic or pornographic. From what my priests and confessors tell me, at this point, it's up to you. Being completely honest to yourself, if they bother you, don't look at them. If they don't, there's no problem.
 

Offline OCLittleFlower

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2013, 12:38:00 AM »

I believe this is an area that involves different opinions unless someone can show me otherwise.  One should consider the different opinions and then pray about it.  If one holds any moral doubt that viewing such an image is a sin, than he should refrain from viewing it.

And isn't that exactly the trouble with putting nudity or excessive immodesty on the wall, above the mantle?  Then people don't have a choice about viewing it, at least initially -- it has to register what it is before you turn away, after all.

And, of course, what tempts one might not tempt another.  Being that I'm not a lesbian, female nudity wouldn't be an occasion of sin for me, but then I'm not the only person who lives in or visits my home.  And, even though it isn't a temptation, it is a bit uncomfortable and unnecessary in most cases, include the case of the painter being discussed here.  I'd certainly be embarrassed to hang such a thing on my wall.
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Offline Maximilian

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2013, 09:09:51 AM »
And isn't that exactly the trouble with putting nudity or excessive immodesty on the wall, above the mantle?  Then people don't have a choice about viewing it, at least initially -- it has to register what it is before you turn away, after all.

Yes. You see photos of great houses in England or the continent, and they have immodest paintings on the wall, immodest sculpture, etc. And the reason you're seeing the photos is because the houses are empty, the  families have collapsed. Those works of art created an environment of sin. And the sin destroyed the families, and eventually the nation, since those aristocratic families were supposed to be the support of the nation.

And, of course, what tempts one might not tempt another.  Being that I'm not a lesbian, female nudity wouldn't be an occasion of sin for me, but then I'm not the only person who lives in or visits my home. 

This, I think, is a common mistake. It has been shown in studies that females are also affected by depictions of female nudity. Also, an environment designed to stimulate sensuousness is going to affect the woman just as much as the man, or even more so. That's why it's a mistake to take an overly simplistic view of the effect of immodest art, considering only the most immediate, direct effect, rather than the long-term consequences.

And, even though it isn't a temptation, it is a bit uncomfortable and unnecessary in most cases, include the case of the painter being discussed here.  I'd certainly be embarrassed to hang such a thing on my wall.

Yes, this is a very good point. Those posters who are defending the erotic paintings of Bouguereau, would they really hang one of those on their walls? What would it be like to have "The Oreads" on your wall? How would you feel when your parents or fellow parishioners came over. What would your pastor think if he came to consecrate your house? And what would be the long-term effect on the souls of all those who saw the painting, even if it didn't cause an immediate occasion of sin?
 

Offline Maximilian

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2013, 09:15:05 AM »
"A painter of great skill and otherwise exemplary life had once made a painting not at all comformable to the strict rules of Christian modesty. It was one of those paintings which, under the pretext of being works of art, are found in the best families, and the sight of which causes the loss of so many souls.

True art is an inspiration from Heaven, which elevates the soul to God; profane art, which appeals to the senses only, which presents to the eye nothing but the beauties of flesh and blood, is but an inspiration of the evil spirit; his works, brilliant though they may be, are not works of art, and the name is falsely attributed to them. They are the infamous productions of a corrupt imagination.

The artist of whom we speak had allowed himself to be misled in this point by bad example. Soon, however, renouncing this pernicious style, he confined himself to the production of religious pictures, or at least of those which were perfectly irreproachable. Finally, he was painting a large picture in the convent of the discalced Carmelites, when he was attacked by. a mortal malady, Feeling that he was about to die, he asked the Prior to allow him to be interred in the church of the monastery, and bequeathed to the community his earnings, which amounted to a considerable sum of money, charging them to have Masses said for the repose of his soul.

He died in pious sentiments, and a few days passed, when a Religious who had stayed in the choir after Matins saw him appear in the midst of flames and sighing piteously. "What!" said the Religious, " have you to endure such pain, after leading so good a life and dying so holy a death?" "Alas!" replied he, " it is on account of the immodest picture that I painted some years ago. When I appeared before the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, a crowd of accusers came to give evidence against me. They declared that they had been excited to improper thoughts and evil desires by a picture, the work of my hand. In consequence of those bad thoughts some were in Purgatory, others in Hell. The latter cried for vengeance, saying that, having been the cause of their eternal perdition, I deserved, at least, the same punishment.

Then the Blessed Virgin and the saints whom I had glorified by my pictures took up my defence. They represented to the Judge that that unfortunate painting had been the work of youth, and of which I had repented; that I had repaired it afterwards by religious objects which had been a source of edification to souls." In consideration of these and other reasons, the Sovereign Judge declared that, on account of my repentance and my good works, I should be exempt from damnation; but at the same time, He condemned me to these flames until that picture should be burned, so that it could no longer scandalise any one."

Then the poor sufferer implored the Religious to take measures to have the painting destroyed. "I beg of you," he added, "go in my name to such a person, proprietor of the picture; tell him in what a condition I am for having yielded to his entreaties to paint it, and conjure him to make a sacrifice of it. If he refuses, woe to him! To prove that this is not an illusion, and to punish him for his own fault, tell him that before long he will lose his two children. Should he refuse to obey Him who has created us both, he will pay for it by a premature death."

The Religious delayed not to do what the poor soul asked of him, and went to the owner of the picture. The latter, on hearing these things, seized the painting and cast it into the fire. Nevertheless, according to the words of the deceased, he lost his two children in less than a month. The remainder of his days he passed in penance, for having ordered and kept that immodest picture in his house. If such are the consequences of an immodest picture, what, then, will be the punishment of the still more disastrous scandals resulting from bad books, bad papers, bad schools, and bad conversations?"

 From Purgatory, By Father Schouppe SJ, 1920

Thanks for finding that story. Yes, that's the one I was recalling, although it seems that I remembered incorrectly the number of years the painter was in Purgatory. But  I did remember correctly that the painter would stay in Purgatory for as long as that painting continued to cause occasions of sin.
 

Offline verenaerin

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Re: Nude art Sinful?
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2013, 09:41:00 AM »
Just from a practical point of view. I am always trying to stress modesty to my children. They think it is hilarious to run around the house naked. They think it's funny to say they are Adam and Eve. So anyway, it would be very difficult to explain why they must wear modest clothing, especially the girls be conscious of how they play when wearing a dress, if I had paintings of naked women on the wall.