Throughout the Middle Ages, nudity was synonymous with sin, and few artists dared to venture into the realm nakedness. With the Renaissance, this all changed. In an expression of of freedom, the nude form, which had not been captured since ancient times, was depicted again in all its wonder.

Religion still played a part in portraying nudity. Although Michelangelo and Da Vinci celebrated the naked body, their works were still rooted in Christian values.

Simonetta Vespucci, the model that inspired Botticelli's (1445-1510) Venus, was regarded as the personification of Venetian beauty. Her nude form was strategically draped and covered.

Details of Vénus, Sandro Botticelli (1484 - 1486) Florence, Galerie des Offices Details of Vénus, Sandro Botticelli (1484 - 1486) Florence, Galerie des Offices

Fast-forward to Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), the Spanish painter known for capturing the female body. In Catholic Spain during an ultra-conservative 19th century, Goya, with no theological or political burdens, depicted women: naked, euphoric and free.

Thanks to Goya, this freedom to paint nudes continued to be relished by artists for centuries after him. Jean-Auguste-Dominique IngresLa Grande Odalisque, 1814, celebrates how each body is unique in its form through how he deliberately distorted the body.

La maja desnuda Francisco Goya, c. 1797–1800 Museo del Prado La maja desnuda Francisco Goya, c. 1797–1800 Museo del Prado

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres La Grande Odalisque, 1814 Musée du Louvre Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres La Grande Odalisque, 1814 Musée du Louvre

At the dawn of the 20th century, Edgar Degas (1834-1917) brought to the world intimate drawings of nudes. He portrayed women in bathrooms, with dark and sensually contoured bodies.

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) Après le bain, femme nue s'essuyant la nuque, 1898 Pastel sur carton © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Après le bain, femme nue s'essuyant la nuque, 1898
Pastel sur carton
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Picasso and Braque went on to reinvent the wheel, or should we say body, in works such as Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 and Le Grand Nu,1907 to 1908. For centuries, the role of the painter was to capture reality, Picasso and Braque's Cubist works smashed these ideas and ''chopped'' up the nude.

Georges Braque, Le Grand Nu Musée national d'art moderne, Paris Georges Braque, Le Grand Nu Musée national d'art moderne, Paris

At the turn of the 20th century, nudity was used as a tool to delve deep into the psyche. German Expressionist painter Egon Schiele (1890-1918) captured a raw sexuality in his works which were often inspired by prostitutes, with lines and textures which created grotesque, Carnivalesque expressions of his innermost desires and frustrations.

Egon Schiele, Fille aux cheveux noirs sans jupe (1911) Leopold Museum, Vienne, Autriche Egon Schiele, Fille aux cheveux noirs sans jupe (1911) Leopold Museum, Vienne, Autriche

During the 1950's, after the Cubist's "dismemberment of the body," Henri Matisse's (1869-1954) works presented the body as no longer a being, but an idea, a concept which the artist materialised through the use of solid color.

Henri Matisse, Nu Bleu II, 1961 © 2014 SUCCESSION H. MATISSE / ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK Henri Matisse, Nu Bleu II, 1961 © 2014 SUCCESSION H. MATISSE / ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK

Post World War II, saw Pop art of the 1960's, appropriate consumer images of nudity. Some artists even took depictions of the body near the realms of pornography, as seen in works by Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004).

Tom Wesselmann Great American Nude #92 1967 © 2006 Estate of Tom Wesselmann, Courtesy L&M Arts Tom Wesselmann Great American Nude #92 1967 © 2006 Estate of Tom Wesselmann, Courtesy L&M Arts

Today, in a digital world where the lines between intimacy and the public space are increasingly brought into the spotlight, perhaps we are returning to controlling depictions of nudity. A control, which of course, the artists of today will revolt against.

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