The undraped human form is ubiquitous in Western art and even appears in the art of India and Japan. Only in China, François Jullien argues, is the nude completely absent. In this enthralling extended essay, he explores the different conceptions of the human body that underlie this provocative disparity.
Contrasting nakedness (which implies a diminished state) with nudity (which represents a complete presence), Jullien explores the traditional European vision of the nude as a fixed point of fusion where form joins truth. He then shows that the absence of the nude in Chinese art evinces an understanding of the human body as changeable and transitory. Viewed in light of each other, these differing concepts allow for a new way of thinking about form, the ideal, and beauty, enabling us to delve deeper into the relationship between art and the ideas that lie at its roots. Beautifully illustrated and gracefully translated into English for the first time, The Impossible Nude will fascinate anyone interested in art history, Chinese art, or aesthetics.