Demure and forever discrete, the implied nude is society's answer to the tasteful nude or what I think of as the "hidden nipple dichotomy."
I could practically hear your eyebrows raise just now. Did he say “nipple”? Everybody knows that we don’t talk about those. I find that ironic, considering everybody’s got them – men, women, children, and most mammals that roam this big, beautiful world. Regardless, society (ours anyway) has deemed the nipple taboo in public unless you’re a dude, a baby, or a farm animal. Or… if you’re a government art project or church. There’s your irony.
It’s ironic because nipples in and of themselves are harmless and beautiful body parts. And like other body parts, they serve a function — a beautiful nurturing relationship between mother and child and man and woman. Regardless, some might even suggest that nipples remain forever hidden from public view in reality and art. But that doesn’t make them taboo – not to me, anyway. I am, however, not the governing rule. After all, nipple dichotomy isn’t new, and it’s probably not going to change anytime soon. So, in the interim, society yields to G/PG versions referred to as “The Implied Nude” or “Demure Nude.”
Implied ~ the viewer is not sure the model is nude, but it is suggested within the image.
Demure ~ the model is nude, but parts are covered, and the subject is reserved.
Sometimes, less is more. In my ongoing research, there appears to be a wide variation of the definition of “Implied Nude.” It’s mostly agreed that it means the model is nude, but no “private” parts are visible in the photographic image or artwork. So, we’re talking about more than nipples here – we’re talking about “private parts,” which are often defined differently from one viewer to the next. Either way, an “implied nude” is to show a nude or imply nudity without showing private parts or nipples (which, to some, are private parts). For me, that introduces a different element because, in many ways, implied nudes are sexier than full-on nudes. Implied nudes offer a titillating quality that sometimes gets lost in a more straightforward art nude. I love a beautifully created indicated or demure image as much as a nude one. Implied nudes often call the imagination into play, and that can be fun.
Sometimes you see the term “demure nude”, which is often confused with “implied nude” because, really, they are similar. “Demure nude” is a beautiful term that means the model is nude, but nothing is showing, whereas “implied nude” often gives the appearance and context of being nude when they may not be, like posing a model under a sheet or partly hiding her figure with props or foliage, which sometimes introduces a voyeuristic perspective. The model could be wearing a bikini in a true implied nude, and you’d never know it. Nudity is implied by the pose and setting.
The implied nude implies that the model is nude, but because of the pose, camera angle, crop, lighting, etc., you can’t conclusively determine from the photo that the model doesn’t have some strips of cloth somewhere. Let your imagination run amuck. We see this all the time; all you have to do is visit the magazine rack at any grocery store or drive by your favorite billboard (in Vegas, anyway).
In the end, I have to wonder if it matters. Nude, implied nude, demure… these have all been discussed and debated for many millennia. I never understood all the confusion. These terms have been around for a very long time. I honestly don’t put a lot of consideration into the debate regarding my art when creating a new painting. I find beauty in the human body, especially the female body – implied, timid, and full-on nude figurative artworks. It’s all beautiful. And that’s what art should be about — beauty. Far too much time is wasted (I believe) in debating such matters rather than enjoying art for what it is — a celebration of beauty.