Nude is an artistic genre which consists in representing a human body in a state of nudity or almost nudity. The representation of the naked body is frequent in the European art from Prehistory, human representations generally appearing naked and bodies reduced to symbolic forms highlighting signs of sexual difference. Equally in Antiquity, where naked human representations are extremely stylized (example: the feminine figurines of the Cyclades).
At the Renaissance, artists are going to be inspired by the art of the Antiquity in particular with the statuary, and the naked body will be reserved to mythological or religious subjects. At that time, the naked body cannot appear as full subject. It expresses a humanist ethics and a new esthetics. Léonardo da Vinci, for example, shall strictly study the human body as if it was still a question to comprehend its mysterious functions. For the royal Academy of painting and sculpture, nudities were justified only in religious or mythology paintings or in allegories constituting the reserved domain of the historical painting.
But in the XIX°s, these conventions are questioned. Considering the difficulty to represent anatomy and complexion, Nude enabled the artist to demonstrate its talent. Thus a nude does not shock the public at that time and be accepted in the official circuit of the Salons, the painter desexualizes it by giving it idealized outlines of an antique sculpture and the recognizable identity of a biblical or mythological character. In sculpture, one make a large use of subjects and antique poses. Then at the beginning of the XX°s, artists question the figurative art with cubism, then with abstract art.
The contemporary nude introduces the distinction between nude and bare. Thus, for example, Lucian Freud does not paint any nudes; he rather paints bared close friends. He insists on the bestiality of the human figure, on putting a stop to any interpretation of psychological portrait. After the Second World War, Pop Art shall regain control of nudes' commercial images, even pornographics images with for example the artist Tom Wesselmann.