Two Cal Poly art and design professors contributed to the touring art exhibition The Renaissance Nude, currently on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Described as “one of the 10 most engaging exhibits of the year” by the Los Angeles Times, The Renaissance Nude features approximately 100 paintings, sculptures, medals and other works of art by European artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci.
Art and design professor Thomas DePasquale worked with Getty Senior Curator Emeritus Thomas Kren for more than five years to help bring The Renaissance Nude exhibit to life.
“One of the revelations of this show is a new understanding of just how complex and varied the meanings that bodies take and works of art are,” DePasquale said. “To me, a really interesting theme has always been the way in which works of art that depict nude bodies express something about our moral sensibilities — everyone can recognize this idea that the nude body triggers that instinct that we have to judge things as being morally right or morally wrong.”
Art and Design Department Chair Giancarlo Fiorenza also contributed his expertise to the exhibition’s publication. Fiorenza will give lectures at the Getty to the public and attend conferences surrounding The Renaissance Nude.
Kren and other art historians wanted to highlight the different traditions of nude art depictions that emerged in the 15th century in Italy, France, the Netherlands and Germany. Kren described the exhibit’s story as a “mosaic of traditions,” meaning it is a blending of various Renaissance Nude styles from Europe. However, despite the time separating today from the Renaissance era, viewers can still take away a modern message.
“The time in which we live is kind of a body-obsessed culture,” Kren said. “To a degree, we see the art of the Renaissance Nude to be a mirror of our own time, and these issues around the nude are relevant today.”
Both DePasquale and Kren discussed the uncomfortable reactions that can be triggered by unclothed bodies and the complexity that comes with displaying them. They said they hope people can appreciate the story each piece in the exhibit helps to tell.
“By learning about something, your attitude towards it can change,” DePasquale said. “You’re no longer having an instinctual reaction that you’re unable to control, but you begin to have a reaction that’s based on your ability to learn about and to understand these aspects.”
DePasquale said that one of the most rewarding aspects of the project for him was inviting his Topics in Renaissance Art (ART 371) students to the exhibit during Fall 2018.
“When you’re passionate about something and deeply interested in any subject, it’s so important for you to be able to share what you know about it with other people,” DePasquale said.
DePasquale, Kren, Fiorenza and other art historians also contributed to the 400-page The Renaissance Nude catalogue.
The exhibit opened Oct. 30, 2018 and will remain in the Getty until Jan. 27, 2019 before touring throughout the world.