The Naked and the Nude

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A new exhibition explores the differences between the words "naked" and "nude" when it comes to describing art.
(Sir Kenneth) Clark's answer was that nakedness "implies some of the embarrassment which most of us feel in that position", while nudity shows "the body re-formed". The writer and critic John Berger saw things the other way around. "To be naked is to be oneself," he said. "To be nude is to be seen naked by others."
When I think of the word "naked", it implies vulnerability, to be without covering. You are naked in the shower, when you are born, when you visit the doctor, when you are in the locker room at the gym. When I think of the word "nude", it suggests a purpose beyond mundane nakedness, such as to be a nude art model, or a nudist, or to pose in Playboy magazine. Is being seen a requirement for nudity, as Berger suggests? If you are clothes-free on a remote beach all by yourself, are you naked, or are you nude? If you spend the day alone in your home without any clothing, are you naked, or are you nude?

I think both Clark and Berger are partially correct. One can be naked without embarrassment, such as when in the bath, and one can be nude without being seen. It's the old adage reapplied: if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around, does it make a sound? Of course it does. The absence of a witness does not mean that nothing happened.

When it comes to nudism, the word "naked" does not seem to apply at all. The nudity is purposeful, it's social, and it's generally mandated.

Now, discuss amongst yourselves. Is the woman in the painting above nude, naked, or neither?

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