Apr 26, 2014

Kristjan Raud: Male Nudity in Estonia

Kristjan Raud, the founder of Estonian art, memorialized the Estonian spirit through a series of paintings and drawings of nude, muscular men, leading one to wonder if he was gay.

Born in 1865, he studied art in St. Petersburg and Munich, then returned to Tallinn, where he became a schoolteacher.

When Estonia became independent in 1917, the 52-year old won a contest for the design of the new postage stamps with his drawing of a nude, muscular man sowing seeds, his bag extending outward as a phallic symbol (below).

The next year, he won the contest for the design of the new currency with a romantic picture of farmers and shepherds, and was commissioned to draw the new coat of arms.

From then on, Raud's career was established: he would promote Estonian culture for the rest of the world.  He produced a wide variety of paintings depicting traditional Estonian life, the villages, the landscapes, and the objects of every day life: costumes, tools, furniture.

Also busts and monuments devoted to important public figures, like wrestle Aleksander Aberg (top photo).  They, too, were often muscular and semi-nude.

Raud was particularly interested in Estonian folklore and mythology.  His various illustrations of the Estonian epic Kalevipoeg began the tradition of depicting the epic hero naked..

But even his non-patriotic art frequently depicts muscular, naked men, as in Inimene ja ΓΆΓΆ (Man of the Night).

Raud married late in life, and had three children.  He died in 1943, when people often lived and died without being aware of the existence of same-sex desire, in themselves or others. So there's no way to tell.

But his art is an inspiration, both to the Estonian people and to everyone mesmerized by male beauty.

See also: Lembit SarapuuKalevipoeg, Gay Epic Hero of Estonia and Yuri and I Cruise in Estonia.

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