Spirited Bodies

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Spirited Bodies is an activist organisation that champions body positivity, feminism and personal empowerment through the practices of life modelling and life drawing. It was founded in by female professional life models based in London, UK, to create a safe environment in which groups of women could try nude modelling for artists. Subsequently it has staged both mixed-gender and women-only events.[1]

Since 2018, Spirited Bodies has been active in campaigning for the use of life drawing as a means to help teenagers overcome social media body confidence issues by challenging the conceptions of conventional beauty.[2]


The concept of making a safe space to help women liberate themselves through life modelling originally emerged from a conversation between professional life models Morimda Tassembedo,[3] Esther Bunting and Lucy Saunders.


Spirited Bodies creates a space for people to discover the therapeutic value of shedding their inhibitions and seeing themselves in others' art.[4] Their philosophy is that by shedding their clothes, amateur models will also shed their inhibitions and experience physical self-acceptance; baring all as a means of facing their own body issues through posing naked for artists.[5]

Life modelling[edit]

Spirited Bodies multi-model life drawing events have been held in diverse venues across London, including the Royal Festival Hall,[6] Mall Galleries,[7] Battersea Arts Centre,[8] The Feminist Library,[9] St John's Church[10] and Sh! Women's Erotic Emporium.[11] Further events have been held around the UK, from Totnes[12] in Devon to Edinburgh[13] in Scotland.

People who would like to try life modelling at Spirited Bodies events have been asked to fill-out an initial questionnaire to assess suitability. Workshops are held in which novices have the opportunity to model and also draw. Spirited Bodies life drawing can take place with up to 20 models in the room;[7] up to 60 models featured at the Battersea Arts Centre in October 2012.[14]

Participants have reported wanting to mark a milestone of body confidence – for example, weight lost or gained, age, physical or mental scarring, chronic illness – and have found life modelling a good way to reconnect with their physical self.[15][16][17][18][19][20]

Spirited Bodies works with its models to come up with ideas for poses. They may be separate or together, connected with or without physical contact, in evolving tableaux rather than static scenes.[21] Esther Bunting, as Artistic Director of Spirited Bodies, assists new models during events whilst sometimes modelling within the group herself.[1][13]

By 2014, it was reported that demand for model places was outstripping availability.[1]


In August 2018, Spirited Bodies began campaigning to get life drawing in colleges and youth centres as a means of helping young people overcome body image anxiety and tackling the negative effects of social media on their mental health[22] by showing what real people with real bodies look like.[23]

The campaign attracted broad media interest across the UK, with interviews and articles in national newspapers,[2][24] radio[25][26] and television news.[23] Global coverage included Mexican television news.[27]

The way social media has affected life drawing was debated publicly when Esther Bunting was invited to speak at a panel event hosted by Mall Galleries, London in August 2018.[28] From a premise that art is "often judged on the conventional attractiveness of the sitter rather than the quality of the painting", discussion covered how life modelling can be empowering and liberating, but that the male gaze continues to hinder body equality in the art room.[29][30]

Esther Bunting is also a physical artist, writer and feminist who has been evolving performance art since 2009.[31]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jarvis, Alice-Azania (2 October 2014). "Nude world: why fashion is baring it all". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b Marshall, Francesca (11 August 2018). "Life drawing can help teens overcome social media body confidence issues, says former Royal Society president". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  3. ^ Morimda Tassembedo (7 December 2015). "Spirited Bodies The Concept". YouTube. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Women of the World Festival 2013 brochure, page 20". 6–10 March 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  5. ^ Halls, Eleanor (21 April 2016). "Nudist hotspots in the UK". GQ Magazine. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Women of the World Festival 2014 brochure, page 29". 5–9 March 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Completely London, Issue 11, pages 30-32". Spring 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Flickr album: London Drawing presents The Drawing Theatre with Spirited Bodies". October 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  9. ^ "Stories of Women (part 3) with Hana". ArtRabbit. 23 October 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  10. ^ "St John's at Waterloo: Loving Bodies". April 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  11. ^ "Sh! Find your divine feminine with Spirited Bodies". September 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  12. ^ "Bodykind Festival 2018". October 2018. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Ragged University: a call to life model in Edinburgh". September 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  14. ^ Steve Ritter (23 November 2012). "Poses past, part XV – The Big Draw, Battersea". Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  15. ^ Smith-Squire, Alison (3 February 2012). "Could you pose naked as an artist's muse?". Sell Your Story UK. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Artists looking for Spirited Bodies to get naked". Wandsworth Guardian. 6 September 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  17. ^ "Excellent Women – Life Drawing at the Women of the World Festival". Making the Marrow. 24 March 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  18. ^ Comfort is for Wimps (17 March 2015). "I experienced the curious life of a naked life drawing model". Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  19. ^ Exposing40 (16 March 2016). "A Brush with Spirited Bodies". Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  20. ^ SexyVeg (22 February 2018). "In the Nude". Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  21. ^ "Battersea Matters: Newsletter of the Battersea Society" (PDF). Winter 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  22. ^ Royal Society of Public Health (May 2017). "#StatusOfMind". Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  23. ^ a b "Sky News, 14 September 2018". Sky News. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  24. ^ Bannerman, Lucy (25 August 2018). "Pupils get a lesson in the naked truth". The Times. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  25. ^ BBC Radio Lancashire (27 August 2018). "Should life drawing be on the National Curriculum?". BBC. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  26. ^ BBC Radio Lancashire, Carl Hartley broadcaster (27 August 2018). "Should 'Life Art' be on the National Curriculum?". BBC. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Televisa FOROtv, 27 September 2019". Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  28. ^ Mall Galleries (15 August 2018). "The Body Beautiful?". Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  29. ^ Mall Galleries (15 August 2018). "'The Body Beautiful?' video". Mall Galleries. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  30. ^ Spirited Bodies (22 August 2018). "The Male Gaze in Life Drawing". Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  31. ^ Curci, Luca (August 2016). "Interview: Esther Bunting". It's Liquid. Retrieved 15 February 2019.