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Open any magazine or watch any ad on TV, and you’ll see straight-size women are the norm for beauty, and they have for decades.

Women like Ashley Graham, Melissa McCarthy, Tess Holliday, and Rebel Wilson are finally smashing long-held ideas that all beautiful or successful women have to be thin.

While all these women are beautiful and talented, curvy women have been celebrated in art for thousands of years. Allow me to indulge my inner art nerd as we take a quick tour of curvy women through the centuries to show you that plus-size women have actually been en vogue longer than you may think.

Note:

  • As you will see in a lot of fine art, some of these ladies are nakey. So if you’re expecting all these ladies to be clothed, they’re not.
  • I realize I am leaving out artists in Africa, Asia, and Australia, which is a huge chunk of the world’s population. I know there are fantastic examples of art that I am leaving out, but I am just not as conversant in art from those continents.
  • I also know I left out female artists. I found a couple that would have been good matches for this article (especially Marie Fox), but due to copyright laws, their paintings are not available on the royalty-free sites I use. Seriously, though, check out Marie Fox – she’s good. 

Venus of Willendorf (25,000 – 28,000 B.C.E.)

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Discovered in Austria in 1908, this faceless woman is estimated to be almost 30,000 years old. Archeologists think she may have been used as a fertility goddess because such emphasis is placed on her curves. Whatever her purpose, this fun-sized 4″ statute is one of the oldest surviving stone figurines ever found.

The Three Graces (1635)

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There is a reason the word “rubenesque” is synonymous with curves. In Ruben’s day (Belgium, around 1600), having extra weight on you was a sign of wealth and good health. You could afford to eat more than the working classes, and this was considered ideal beauty. I swear you can see cellulite on there!

Bather Admiring Herself in the Water (1910)


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Auguste Renoir was one of the most notable Impressionists active in France in the late 19th century. His early works feature women at work, in cafés, or gardens. But when he moved to the south of France in his later years, he painted more nudes. And many of them were true girls with curves. I wasn’t able to find much background on this particular painting which is held in a private collection, but it is an exceptional piece celebrating lady curves!

Woman Undressing (1983)

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The most recent entry on this list, Fernando Botero is an 84-year-old Columbian painter who often paints larger people, often reproducing famous pieces of art such as the Mona Lisa. When asked why, he simply answered, “An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why.” His non-reproductions may seem to have a cartoonish quality, but I think this one shows the intimacy of a woman alone at the end of a long day. Though we can’t see her face, the fact she has rolls and a booty is something many ladies can relate to!

 

Hopefully this little tour of classic art will help you realize that plus-size women have been artist muses for hundreds (and thousands!) of years. Back fat, big butts, jiggly arms, cellulite, stomachs, double chins and all – we are beautiful women inside and out and we deserve to be celebrated!

What can be done to make beautiful, plus-size women mainstream again so that all sizes are celebrated? Comment below!