We're here to let you in on a pretty widely known secret about art history: It's dirtier than you remember. Visions of Venus and sensual octopuses are probably filling your memory now -- yes, your art history classes were more exciting than you first thought. In celebration of the wildly erotic tendencies of artists over the centuries, we've put together a list of the most jaw-dropping-ly sensual artworks you might have forgotten about since your sophomore year stint in a Renaissance art survey course. Behold, 15 classic works that are way naughtier than you remember. That is, Dead White European Males dominate the archives, and as a result, nude women are usually the subject of historical erotic art. If, after reading this list, you need a fresh take on erotic art, check out the Leopold Museum's aptly titled exhibition "Nude Men" and the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art's show on homoerotic artist Sasha Schneider. This circa painting will go down in history as " the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art " -- thought to be at least one of the first explicit depictions of female pubic hair.
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Nude paintings have the power to shock as well as the ability to move people. This is due to the beauty with which some artists can render the body in oil paints. Many contemporary artists are still trying to find new ways to cause outrage with their paintbrushes, but not always, and in fact a lot are harking back to more classical depictions of nudity. The artists selected here touch on both these ideas in their explorations of the human form in its natural glory. Kent Williams is an American artist whose work has spread across many different mediums in his long and distinguished career, including graphic novels and printmaking.
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No one has ever painted naked women as gorgeously as Titian did. His ravishing Venus is a lover laying her beauty bare, and the recipient of her optical largesse is anyone who happens to stand in front of this painting in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy. Titian creates with mind-boggling skill the lavish presence of this nude: the rapture of her carnal glory. There's something divine about such beauty. Some people find profundity in religious art, in abstract art, in conceptual art. For me, there's nothing more moving in art than the breasts of the Venus of Urbino. Nudity never loses its power. The conventions of the nude can be enjoyed, and challenged, in limitless ways. Vivienne Westwood glories in poses culled from painting as she exults in all the possibilities of nakedness in art, while in her 70s. The mistress of the king of France proudly displays her bottom in this picture from the age of the Marquis de Sade.