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The Arab Nude: The Artist as Awakener examines the way in which artists and intellectuals of the Mandate era engaging in a double struggle against imperialism, Ottoman and European, resorted to an ideal form or pictorial device to concretize their visions of Arab modernity. For them, to be “Arab” was as much a matter of ambiguity and ambition as was the quest to be an artist. In fact, both labels required leaps of imagination over local conditions and imperial plans. What claims for identity, community, and political society were invested in the divesting of Arab bodies of their clothes? Our exhibition documents the debates that met the genre of the Nude in exhibition halls and newspapers. It situates artistic practices in relation to ongoing, urgent discussions about the meaning of citizenship, urbanity, and internationalism carried out amid movements for women’s rights, pan-Arabism, and various nationalisms, as well as educational reform, militarization, the scouting movement and nudist colonies. Without espousing the role of awakener for artists, our subtitle foregrounds the social,political or cultural motivations for these artists to embrace and adopt the genre of the Nude in their artistic careers.

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Stills from The Arab Nude