Famous Nude Human Figure Paintings in History

Posted by NikH

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Egon Schiele Nude Art
Paintings of the nude human figure, captivate us more than any other subjects of art.

There is a pyschological reason to this. We understand it loosely as “body language”.  Body language is more than communication. It is wordless universal communication, which is able to describe the most abstract of feelings.

Since the aim of most art is in communication, it is understandable to see how nudes on canvas are so fascinating.

Earliest known nude art is  the celebrated Venus of  Willendorf, a tiny stone sculpture found in Austria. She is from the Stone Age (ca. 38000 – 10000 BC) . Surprising to the archaeologists, sculptures of the nude female figure, morbidly fleshy, with no defined facial features or limbs, in the rest of the world in that era were quite similar.

The earliest, most celebrated, nude art known today are from Greece and Rome in the period of Antiquity (900BC – 300AD). The realism of these works were quite impressive, and typifies the “Greek God” sculptured look.

The late Antiquity to Pre-Renaissance Paintings

The late Antiquity to Pre-Renaissance (300 – 1450) paintings were dominated by scriptural Christian paintings. This era was also classified as the Middle Ages and included Gothic art, Trecento and Romanesque paintings. Human figures were mostly stylized and symbolic rather than expressive. Nudes (if at all) were depicted as part of a narrative, rather than expression of emotion.

The Renaissance period Nude Paintings

The Renaissance period (1500s) was the rebirth of attention to the realistic human figure. It was this time that Artist’s signed their names onto their works and re-focused on the skill of executing artwork to impress, rather than indoctrinate.

Gabrielle D'Estrees

Gabrielle D’Estrees and One Of Her Sisters (ca.1592) Musee du Louvre, Paris

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Diana the huntress, 16th century French , Fontainebleau School

The Birth of Venus, c.1485

The Birth of Venus, c.1485, Sandro Botticelli

Expulsion from Paradise, 1425-1428

Expulsion from Paradise, 1425-1428, Masaccio

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Primavera, circa 1478

Primavera, circa 1478 Sandro Botticelli

Renaissance painters express the nude as beautiful, flowing curves and soft white skin sometimes dressed with light, transparent clothes.

Nude Woman in Front of Mirror

Nude Woman in Front of Mirror, Giovanni Bellini

Leda and the Swan

Leda and the Swan – Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519) was a keen observer of the human figure. He had numerous drawings and studies of the human figure.
Michaelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1564) was the most illustrious artist of his time. He is regarded foremost as a sculptor. His nudes were beautiful, muscular, god-like. They were almost touchable and much more than realistic. His grandest paintings are nudes on the frescos on the Sistine Chapel.

Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1508-12): the Fall of Man, 1510 (Post Restoration)

The Fall of Man, 1510, Michelangelo Buonarotti

Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1508-12): the Fall of Man, 1510 (Post Restoration), Michelangelo Buonarotti

La Fornarina, circa 1516

La Fornarina, circa 1516, Raphael

The figures of Raphael (1483 – 1520) were more soft-focused and smooth toned. Less musculature, but still strong body language.

Diana and Callisto

Diana and Callisto Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

The Rape of Lucretia

The Rape of Lucretia Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Titian (ca 1488 – 1576) painted nudes of different genres, from altar pieces to mythology. His paintings are dynamic, and there is a lot of motion of figures in his works.

Venus of Urbino, Before 1538

Venus of Urbino, Before 1538, Titian

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The Death of Adonis, circa 1511-12

The Death of Adonis, circa 1511-12 Sebastiano del Piombo

Other notable Renaissance nude paintings:


Allegory of Happiness, c.1567

Allegory of Happiness, c.1567 Agnolo Bronzino

Jupiter and Io

Jupiter and Io (1530) Correggio

Venus in the Mirror

Venus in the Mirror Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto


Laocoon, El Greco

Lucretia, 1532, Distemper on Wood

Lucretia, 1532, Distemper on Wood, Lucas Cranach The Elder

The Baroque Era Nude Paintings

The Baroque era (1600s)  was arguably the true Golden Age of art. Nudes on paint are dynamically lighted like in a modern screen-play. The paintings are dramatic, 3-dimensional and naturalistic. Genres also change to more contemporary subjects, even though some of the story-telling in the paintings are based on Christian scriptures or Mythology.

Leda and the Swan

Leda and the Swan Peter Paul Rubens

The Medici Cycle: Education of Marie de Medici 1621-25

The Medici Cycle: Education of Marie de Medici 1621-25 Peter Paul Rubens

Read also: A Novel About Art. This article features a story about a Leda and the Swan painting.

Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus

Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus, Peter Paul Rubens

18th Century Famous Nude Paintings

18th Century nudes were the product of socio-political climate of its time. The art (mostly) got less flamboyant and more stately, and majestic. A good number of nude paintings were borne out of this era.

Diana Getting out of Her Bath, 1742

Diana Getting out of Her Bath, 1742, Francois Boucher

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Girl Resting

Girl Resting, Francois Boucher



Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene (1752), Anton Raphael Mengs

Read also: Mary Magdalene in Art.

Sleeping Bacchante

Sleeping Bacchante Jean-Honoré Fragonard


Le Feu Aux Poudres, Before 1770

Le Feu Aux Poudres, Before 1770, Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Odalisque or the Small Bather, 1864

Odalisque or the Small Bather, 1864 Jean-Auguste-Domique Igres

The Grande Odalisque, 1814

The Grande Odalisque, 1814, Jean-Auguste-Domique Igres



The 19th Century Nude Paintings

The 19th Century nudes developed to less “in-the-flesh” and more stylistic. The artists of this era were varied and more experimental in their style.  Painting styles were experimented with, and there were movements or -isms that were borne from this time . In broader terms, their artists were Realists, Romantics, Impressionists and Expressionists and many other sub-categories which we recognize today.

The Realists were about style. Their subject matter were focused on contemporary, real life ordinary subjects. They reject the idealism in painting ideas used in Christianity or mythology as sole subjects for art.

Gustav Courbet’s nudes were provocative. His paintings were, in general, raw, and focused on reality.

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Le Sommeil, 1866, Gustave Courbet


The Nude Maja, circa 1800

The Nude Maja, circa 1800 Francisco de Goya


Of the famous Impressionist nude painters are Edouard Manet. His subjects were like that of Goya, almost journalistic. His nudes, however was loose strokes, almost flat tones with creative use of color and shape.

Olympia, 1863

Olympia, 1863 Edouard Manet

Luncheon On The Grass

Luncheon On The Grass (1863) Édouard Manet


More typically impressionistic paintings include the paintings of Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georges Seurat and Cezanne. The figures are less detailed, with focus on the shape and blocks of colour.

After the Bath, circa 1896

After the Bath, circa 1896 Edgar Degas

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Woman Drying Herself, c.1888-92

Woman Drying Herself, c.1888-92 Edgar Degas

Read also: How to paint Like Modigliani

Woman Combing Her Hair

Woman Combing Her Hair Edgar Degas

The Bathers, 1887

The Bathers, 1887 Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The Lady with Blond Hair, 1904-1906

The Lady with Blond Hair, 1904-1906 Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Read also: How to Paint Nude Figure Like Renoir.

Model in Profile, 1886

Model in Profile, 1886 Georges Seurat

This is an impressionist nude painting in pointilism.


The Models, 1888

The Models, 1888 Georges Seurat

Back View of Nude, 1886

Back View of Nude, 1886 Georges Seurat

A Modern Olympia

A Modern Olympia Paul Cezanne

The Expressionists were more varied in the style. The nudes were much poignant in the message of the paintings. The focus is on communicating than purely aesthetics. Of the famous artists of this genre are Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch, Amedeo Modigliani, Gustav Klimt, Egon Shiele, and Henri Matisse.

nude paintings Two Reclining Girls, 1911, Egon Schiele

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Resting Nude, Egon Schiele


And the Gold of Their Bodies, 1901

And the Gold of Their Bodies, 1901 Paul Gauguin

Madonna, c.1894

Madonna, c.1894 Edvard Munch

Nude with Green Stockings, 1918

Nude with Green Stockings, 1918 Egon Schiele

The Dance

The Dance Henri Matisse


Reclining Nude

Reclining Nude, Amedeo Modigliani

Reclining Nude


Danae Gustav Klimt



20th Century Famous Nude Paintings

The 20th Century began with tumultuous years of the two world wars. Great art derived from this era were interesting and expressive. Abstraction is born, and often the subject of “nude” is no longer a recognizable shape. Progeny from the 18th Century adopted styles of Impressionism, Expressionism still live on with adopted contemporary subjects and flair. This is the era of photography and cinema. Realistic representation seems no longer a priority, and neither is there any more journalistic role for art as in Goya’s time.

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, 1912

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, 1912, Marcel Duchamp

erich heckel Nude

Fränzi liegend, c.1910, Erich Heckel

Expressionist nude.

Nude Woman Combing Her Hair, 1913

Nude Woman Combing Her Hair, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner


Nude and Still Life, c.1931, Pablo Picasso

Expressionist nude, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Female Nude with Hot Tub, 1912

Female Nude with Hot Tub, 1912 Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve Tamara de Lempicka

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, c.1907

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, c.1907 Pablo Picasso

nude painting

Lilith, John Collier

John Collier is an late 19th century artist and quite a celebrated portrait painter in England.

nude art

Woman Pulling up Her Stocking, 1894 Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec’s

Woman Pulling up Her Stocking, 1894 Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec’s interesting rendering of nude in his art.

famous nude painting

La Magie Noire, Rene Magritte

Rene Magritte is not so famous for his nude painting, and this one is so beautiful, yet relatively unknown.

hopper painting nude

Morning in a City, Edward Hopper

Read also: Loneliness in the Art of Edward Hopper
Hopper is another artist not so well known for nudes, and this is gorgeous and sensual.

Nude Woman painting

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, Nude Woman

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Édouard Chimot, Deux Nymphes, 1925



The art world today is more interesting than ever. With social media on the internet, more artists are inspired experiment with styles and techniques of painting. The form of the human nude figure is interpreted and re-interpreted. In any form, paintings of the nude human figure always fascinates.

With this era, comes the age of Contemporary art. What the nudes of today are all about… well, that’s the job of the historians of the future.

Read more Nude painting articles in this site: Nude Paintings and How to Paint Like Modigliani.