We're here to let you in on a pretty widely known secret about art history: It's dirtier than you remember. Visions of Venus and sensual octopuses are probably filling your memory now -- yes, your art history classes were more exciting than you first thought. In celebration of the wildly erotic tendencies of artists over the centuries, we've put together a list of the most jaw-dropping-ly sensual artworks you might have forgotten about since your sophomore year stint in a Renaissance art survey course. Behold, 15 classic works that are way naughtier than you remember.
The nude , as a form of visual art that focuses on the unclothed human figure, is an enduring tradition in Western art. Unclothed figures often also play a part in other types of art, such as history painting , including allegorical and religious art , portraiture , or the decorative arts. From prehistory to the earliest civilizations, nude female figures are generally understood to be symbols of fertility or well-being. Japanese prints are one of the few non-western traditions that can be called nudes, but the activity of communal bathing in Japan is portrayed as just another social activity, without the significance placed upon the lack of clothing that exists in the West.
There are many reasons that the female nude is such a popular subject for painting. It is an aesthetically pleasing subject. Most artists and most patrons have been men. It is an extension of a centuries long tradition of life drawing. It has the potential to be erotic.