Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Undressed Art: Why We Draw” as Want to Read:
Undressed Art: Why We Draw
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Undressed Art: Why We Draw

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  228 ratings  ·  31 reviews
To draw is to understand what we see. In The Undressed Art, writer-naturalist Peter Steinhart investigates the rituals, struggles, and joys of drawing. Reflecting on what is known about the brain’s role in the drawing process, Steinhart explores the visual learning curve: how children begin to draw, how most of them stop, and what brings adults back to this deeply human art fo ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2004)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Undressed Art, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Undressed Art

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  228 ratings  ·  31 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Nov 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This will become a mainstay of my art/drawing library. It is fantastic, well written and engaging. I can see myself rereading it.
Manan Desai
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who has any interest in figure sketching nudes or modelling for them
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction, art
Undressed Art is a book on everything that involves drawing nude human figures by naturalist and writer Peter Steinhart, an amateur artist himself. It concentrates mostly on figure sketching scene in America including the reasons to draw, learning to draw in childhood and adulthood, drawing in art institutes and in private and public groups, nude modelling, lives of artists both amateur and professional and history of drawing figure the world-over for the last 2-3 centuries.

This book
May 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Anna by: Bruce Robertson
Shelves: non-fiction
A book about the rituals, trials and pleasure that comes from drawing,The Undressed Art is a fairly enjoyable read, but the author is overly descriptive in some chapters, making the text tedious and difficult to get through at times. I had to skim through some chapters, as they bored me (and I'm an artist/ex-model, and am interested in the subjects presented).

I enjoyed the chapters on the history of life/figure drawing (how it was once taboo and looked down upon, and how it became the respectable art it is tdrawing,The
Cindy Richard
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but I am glad I took a chance on it. Steinhart explored the various reasons why people draw - connection, recognition, to remember, and so on - but he does it in a unique way be including excellent examples of illustrators at work. He also includes information on why people model nude and why people are so compelled to draw nudes. There were a lot of great tips on seeing as an artist that I will certainly keep in my bag of tricks as I am learning to d ...more
A great book about what our brains do when drawing and also a good description of what figure models do and why they do it. Written mainly about the St. Fran area in California
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this to anyone interested or involved in any of the arts, visual or not. I picked this up on an impulse at a used book store. Well crafted essays on art, seeing, work, hobbies, and purpose. More depth and breadth than I expected, plus compelling enough writing to keep me interested. I found myself quietly reflecting on the purpose of art, as well as energized and excited to see and create art.

This might be my favorite book.
Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Mildly interesting read about the history and psychology of drawing, focusing on figure drawing.
Kathryn Malta
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, fascinating, well written. Loved it.
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Picked it up to pass the time; quickly became engrossed. Well written in a most interesting manner.
Bill Lancaster
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-books
Though I rarely re-read books, this is my second reading of this book. I first read it about 4-5 years ago and because I am planning on taking a life drawing class this summer, I thought that I would read it again.

I'm glad I did. It's a wonderful book, full of acute observations about how we draw, why we draw and stories of the many dynamics between artists and models. The book offers the unique perspective of the life drawing model from what it is like to work for low wages, to the pain of hol
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Artists and those involved with artists
Growing up in a family with a parent who was a serious artist and having become myself an artist I was drawn to this book.
The author is clearly very knowledgeable about drawing and it's history in the modern world. I find it deeply gratifying to read such articulate understanding of the motivations and psychology of artists, which from my life is something I have rarely encountered.
His research into the varieties of drawing groups and the realities of models and their guilds is illum
Kellun Turner
Jan 05, 2014 rated it liked it
I bought this book at the Metropolitan Museum of Art bookstore, NYC, and am glad I read it although it often reads like a textbook so I found I had to make myself keep reading. Parts of it are really captivating plus I loved the drawings and I resonated with much of what Steinhart had to say about "Why We Draw." "Art is an extension of our human abilities to make mental images and to hold ideas in the form of symbols. Art thus increases our abilities to record and manipulate experience. We draw ...more
Aug 31, 2011 rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book! And it was pretty good. I draw a lot and I have this blog ( and I've been snooping around for writers who explore what it is about drawing itself (as compared to other visual arts) that is so magical. I was psyched to find this book and the author (a longtime naturalist and writer) is clearly interesting and thoughtful it always feel like the full book moved beyond the sum of its parts.
Oct 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
A wonderful read with great anecdotes and quotes from art history, engaging stories from artists who draw and models who pose from them, and surprising scientific facts about the effects of drawing on the brain, all studded with drawings from children to famous artists. I would consider it a must-read for any art school student, working artist, and art historian. Peter Steinhart inspired me to return to drawing every day.
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
As someone who often likes the drawings titled "Study for ----" more than finished and elaborate paintings, this book helped me understand those feelings. And as someone who is building the habit of drawing daily, Steinhart's insights into process, emotion and searching (the "dispersers"!) were fresh and motivating.
Judy Vasseur
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who attend life drawing sessions and who love to draw

Anyone who has drawn with a life-drawing group or even just loves to draw will feel like this author has crawled right into your head. You will recognize your impulses, your experiences and the "high" you get from the act of drawing itself. Really, it's a manifesto to turn off the TV and pick up your sketchbook, and continue to observe nature and the world with greater focus.
Teri Robus
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reading-again
I really liked this book. I love to draw and am in drawing class right now. Reading about the models was so interesting, Steinhart interviewed some of them and hearing about their reasons for modeling were so enlightening. I think all life-drawing models, and artists should read this book.
Matthew Conroy
Lots of historical and anecdotal pieces of information and observations about figure drawing. The author's tendency to generalize from his personal experience and his near-misogynistic commentary rather put me off. Overall, an okay read.
An overview of why we draw with some examples from artists in the Bay Area. I would assume this author is from the Bay Area, because of references to locales in Berkeley, San Fransisco and Oakland.
Nov 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
A naturalist turns his powers of observation, description, and appreciation on the community of amateur drawers and sketchers and the result is absolutely fascinating. While there are some flaws with the uneven scope of the book, many of his insights resonated with the drawer in me.
Mar 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
the best writing i've seen about the psychological process during drawing
Jun 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Summer reading for my graduate teaching seminar.

Pretty good so far! Finding inspiration for teaching drawing.
Nov 12, 2008 is currently reading it
Still enjoying this, but Steinhart's insights and observations about humans and drawing are eye opening. very enjoyable.
Mar 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book fanned the flames of my interest in drawing, I really liked it!
May 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Facinating look at art, specifically drawing, and how it helps us connect with and understand the world around us.
"Drawing, then, is a way of fostering interest in the world" p.69
Jan 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays, art, history
Great read. Some sections are more interesting than others, but as a whole the book holds together. If you are an artist you will find much in this book to inspire you.
Oct 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! Captivating! Includes history of San Francisco's unique Models' Guild founded in 1945 & why children all have the urge to draw and many lose it as they grow.
Anthony Tenaglier
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
"The distinction is this: you draw to see; you make a picture to express relationships between the objects you have seen." (page 205)
Alexander Miranda
Jul 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people that LOVE to draw
This is a great book in the light of "Drawing on the right side of the brain" a cool in-depth view of the process of art making specifically drawing.
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery
  • American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America
  • Making Art From Maps: Inspiration, Techniques, and an International Gallery of Artists
  • Drawing is Thinking
  • The Collage Workbook: How to Get Started and Stay Inspired
  • The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine
  • The Return of the Real: Art and Theory at the End of the Century
  • Dragonart
  • Alphabetica: An A-Z Creativity Guide for Collage and Book Artists
  • Working With Anger
  • I Married Adventure
  • Bridgman's Life Drawing
  • The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World
  • Just Revenge
  • Energy Addict: 101 Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Ways to Energize Your Life
  • The Center of the World
  • Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism
  • Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction
See similar books…