Saturday, April 28, 2007


Holland Carter once wrote, "I go to museums to get the latest news from the distant past."

There's no better place to look for news than in the changing depictions of the human form. Artists have been drawing the human body for over 20,000 years and while the body has remained the same, the drawings keep changing.

Every pose, angle, and facial expression has been drawn a thousand times by talented artists. Look at these figure drawings by the great Annibale Carracci in the 16th century:

Who would have the nerve to continue drawing the figure after Carracci if there was no new information to convey? What could another drawing possibly contribute?

The fact is, while the human form remains unchanged, each era presents fresh questions for the artist. And even when the question remains the same, the answers continue to change. Look at all the news in this wonderful drawing by Aubrey Beardsley.

Or contrast Carracci's drawings with these recent images by the talented Phil Hale:

The muscles, bones, arms and legs are the same-- and yet what a difference!

If our bodies were merely machines, they would not be a source of infinite fascination for artists. As it is, artists keep returning to the human form for fresh news about our humanity.


Blogger lotusgreen said...

isn't it interesting, though, that bodies of different styles go in and out of fashion, which can also be seen in the art!

which comes first, the slouch or the illustration of the slouch?

4/28/2007 7:53 PM  
Blogger pk said...

What odd synchronicities! I saw your kind comment yesterday David and I was today looking through Carracci online and ended up at Charley Parker's entry on Carracci from December and then decided to head over find Carracci!

artists keep returning to the human form for fresh news about our humanity. Great line! I will give attribution when I drop it into dinner party conversations.

which comes first, the slouch or the illustration of the slouch?

The slouching illustrator perhaps?

4/30/2007 7:27 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

PK, there was a great show of Carraci's drawings at the National Gallery of Art a few years ago. I think it was a revelation to all who saw it, and created a lot of new Carraci fans.

As for dropping a line at dinner parties, you must get invited to a better grade of dinner party than I do. If I tried saying something like that at a dinner, they would grab me by the lapels and hurl me from the back porch.

4/30/2007 12:23 PM  
Blogger SpaceJack said...

I try to go to a life drawing session about once a week. Each pose is potential for a brand new piece of art - from every angle in the room. It's really amazing when you think about it.

4/30/2007 7:53 PM  
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