Perhaps because of its familiarity, the human body has served as such a rich source of inspiration for artists from the very beginning. The body's textures, colors and contours have been explored and reinterpreted in countless artworks, each one offering new ways to both view and understand ourselves.

Ancient Minoan wall frescoes capitalized on the athleticism the Minoan culture encouraged, rendering muscular young figures in daily life and participating in daring physical challenges. Though flat in perspective, they possess a dynamism that seems to presage the sense of movement found in works of the high Renaissance. Around the turn of the 20th century, Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani created portraits with subjects who had slender, elongated features inspired by traditional African masks and sculptures. Later, the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois abstracted and contorted human anatomy in dozens of paintings and drawings, examining the organic shapes while also pointing to how those forms are so often politicized.

Today, the kinds of bodies accepted as artistic subjects continue to broaden in scope, revealing a new embrace of skin tones, sizes and ages previously overlooked.