Sunday, July 03, 2011

A THING FOR SHOULDERS

Illustrator Henry Raleigh had a thing for shoulders.


Other artists loved to draw hands.  Al Dorne, Steve Ditko and Mort Drucker all emphasized hands in their pictures, building compositions around them and infusing them with significance.  Amedeo Modigliani's tastes were a little different; he seemed to have a thing for necks, extruding them to achieve the effects he wanted.   And Robert McGinnis consistently painted women with weirdly elongated legs.  He apparently found these proportions pleasing.

But to return to our story, Raleigh had a thing for shoulders.  Many artists didn't see much potential in shoulders, assuming that they were generally symmetrical and level.  Raleigh looked closer and saw them swooping and dipping like languorous gulls:

When Raleigh needed a figure in the foreground, sometimes it was little more than a shoulder in the "debutante slouch." 
Time and again, he placed women's shoulders at center stage, plunging and ascending to guide the viewer around his picture:


Most artists use facial expressions to convey attitude. Raleigh could convey it with shoulders:


Every chance he got, Raleigh looked for excuses to draw bare shoulders and backs (regardless of what he was being paid to illustrate).  Look at his loving treatment of these women and there is no mistaking his personal tastes:  


 
Why is one artist smitten by the lines and shapes of bare shoulders, while another lavishes attention on hands, and a third finds creative potential in necks?  Some say these preferences stem from cultural conditioning or climate or endocrinology or childhood experiences or intellect or sexual desire.

Whatever the explanation, pictures highlight the features that most appeal to the artist's personal taste.  You or I might walk through this world overlooking the special beauty of shoulder blades and  clavicles, but it's hard to do after viewing them through Raleigh's loving eyes.  We might not end up completely sharing his fetish, but we certainly have a heightened appreciation for what shoulders can be.  And that's a good thing.

55 Comments:

Blogger Mark Kjærgaard said...

I love this post! Thanks a bunch!

7/03/2011 10:57 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

What about the way Frazetta paints butts? Totally unrealistic but it must be the way he sees them. They dominate his pictures but I don't mind.

7/03/2011 11:32 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi David

The neat thing about drawing and painting reality is that there is so much beyond words. A line can say so many things about the slope of a back, and your eye can ride and navigate the artist's observation almost effortlessly.

From your last post : I found this video on YouTube, you probably have read John Berger's Ways of seeing. I guess the BBC must have made a TV show out of it. It touches on a lot of the issues discuss in your blog.

http://m.youtube.com/index?desktop_uri=%2F&gl=US#/watch?v=LnfB-pUm3eI

7/03/2011 11:33 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

David,
Thank you. You've made a Raleigh admirer out of me. I love the delicate, lyrical quality he gave his female figures. It's sophisticated sensuality, something this generation needs a strong dose of.

7/03/2011 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frazetta butts unrealistic ???

While you might have a problem finding a true McGinnis lady walking around , you can absolutely find real life Frazetta buttocks which , under a light source , look exactly as FF painted them . Hope you get to experience that someday Moran .

Al McLuckie

7/03/2011 3:03 PM  
Blogger Smurfswacker said...

Raleigh is another largely forgotten giant. He was part of the charcoal-drawing school shared by Gruger, Mitchell, etc. but his drawings were looser and more impetuous than his colleagues'.

I love that color piece, with washy watercolor (in odd choices of hue) on the right turning to opaque blue on the left. HR did a fine series of color paintings for Maxwell House in the 20s.

As for butts--who could forget John LaGatta, maestro of the firm derriere?

7/03/2011 5:53 PM  
Blogger Jesse Hamm said...

Always luv me some Raleigh. He reminds me of (William) Galbraith (Crawford), another don in that school of sweeping lines and smokey corners.

David: "Some say these preferences stem from cultural conditioning or climate or endocrinology or childhood experiences or intellect or sexual desire."

People often assume an artist draws women a certain way because that's what he finds beautiful or sexually appealing, but I think that comes from a narrow understanding of the artistic impulse. (Not to say that David made this assumption.) I personally enjoy drawing women with boney features and long necks and fingers, but those aren't the traits I typically find attractive in real women. I just like the way they look on paper; I like the angles. (I also like the way giraffes and Joshua trees look, but I don't want to date one!)

I wouldn't rule out the influence of sexual preferences on artistic taste, but I think the field of influence is much broader than that, encompassing visual motifs that have no sexual or cultural basis.


Al: "you can absolutely find real life Frazetta buttocks"

Yes, but not in concert with the other features he married those butts to -- slim necks & ankles, boney ribcages, etc. His butts look larger than life because they are indeed larger than those of the sorts of women he placed them on.

7/03/2011 8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesse - honestly , they are out there , i've seen em . In pop retro culture , Bettie Page , butt ribcage etc - Debra Paget in Lang's Indian Epic and Princess of the Nile - face even looks Frazetta doll like in makeup .

Checked your art out , very nice work !

Al

7/03/2011 9:36 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Mark Kjaergaard-- Thanks very much. I appreciate hearing from you.

MORAN-- I don't think Raleigh and Frazetta's tastes are totally unrelated. A person can't move their shoulders that way without causing an equal and opposite swaying of the hips. Perhaps Raleigh was just a little more indirect, counting on his viewers to recognize there is a two part invention at work?

Tom-- Thanks, I agree. One reason I prefer a pencil to a camera is that a pencil gives much more freedom to alter the world in accordance with your personal tastes. Oliver Sacks observed that "the world isn't given to us-- we make it with our nervous systems." If you have a thing for long necks, a pencil seamlessly lets you record the world the way your nervous system tells you it should be, with necks as long as you like. A camera drags you back to reality.

I was not familiar with Berger's work-- thanks for forwarding the link.

Etc, etc-- it took me a little while to warm to Raleigh. Now I agree with you, there is a lot of sophisticated sensuality in that flurry of lines.

7/04/2011 5:16 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Al McLuckie and Jesse Hamm-- I may not be the best arbiter for a point such as this, but personally I agree that Frazetta exaggerated the human posterior by placing it on a frame where it would never exist in real life. If you look at his examples here or here, you'll see he achieves his desired effect by contrasting a large posterior with a totally unrealistic wasp waist.

7/04/2011 5:37 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Jesse Hamm wrote, "I wouldn't rule out the influence of sexual preferences on artistic taste, but I think the field of influence is much broader than that, encompassing visual motifs that have no sexual or cultural basis."

I agree completely. I certainly don't think Al Dorne had a sexual proclivity for grizzled old hands with large knobby knuckles; I just think he found the design and workings of hands colorful and intriguing, for reasons he probably couldn't explain either. El Greco loved to paint long, stretched out figures because it "seemed" right to him. People still argue about whether this was a result of stylistic preference, or because El Greco suffered from astigmatism (which would have caused him to perceive "unidirectional elongation" of objects). But nobody argues that it was a distortion for cultural or sexual reasons.

By way of contrast, I would distinguish these organic ways of perceiving the world from a deliberate and willful device, such as Dean Cornwell's fondness for using arms bent at the elbow as a compositional device, to return the viewer to a desired space in the painting. I view that as a matter of choice, not a result of a special way of perceiving elbows.

Smurfswacker-- I agree with you, especially about Gruger, another brilliant illustrator.

"As for butts--who could forget John LaGatta, maestro of the firm derriere?"

Smurfswacker, I have a large (and growing) collection of essays to post on the day when I finally shut this blog down and go into hiding in the witness protection program. One of them has to do with the aesthetics of the shape of the posterior. As you might imagine, LaGatta figures in that prominently, as does Frazetta.

7/04/2011 6:24 AM  
Anonymous Immanuel Kant said...

Human experience of things is similar to the way they appear to us implying a fundamentally subject-based component, rather than being an activity that directly (and therefore without any obvious causal link) comprehends the things as they are in and of themselves.

7/04/2011 7:19 AM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

David:

>(which would have caused him to >perceive "unidirectional elongation" >of objects)

er....isn't that a fallacy? I mean, assume he saw things elongated along the z axis, say 20% elongated. Then he will also see them elongated on the canvas, along the same axis, and by the same amount. Hence, in order to match the picture to the model, he will paint exactly the right proportions, and you will never notice any distortion. Or am I missing something?

The only way I see out of this is if the distortion is dependent on distance, in such a way that he sees near object correctly and far objects elongated. Then you would have distortion on the canvas. But I don't think that's how it works...(anybody?)

7/04/2011 9:42 AM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

"Anybody", meaning, "any opticians in the room"?

7/04/2011 9:43 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

David
I like the Oliver Sacks quote but the same thing that created the world also created our neverous system. The flatness of the shoulders and the back is the prefect contrast to the roundness and fullness of the buttocks and the reverse arrangement is found on the front of the body with the breasts and abs. Anyway here is a quote for your posterior collection

"Dianne at the bath, by Boucher, was the first painting which really bowled me over, and I have continued to love it all my life...you know, a painter who has a feeling for breasts, and buttocks is un homme sauve."

"I liked a canvas to tempt my hand to caress it"
Renoir

7/04/2011 9:54 AM  
Blogger Jesse Hamm said...

I'm no optician, but I think it's clear that whoever called El Greco astigmatic was smoking truckloads of crack. He elongated forms on both the X and Y axes, for one thing.

7/04/2011 9:56 AM  
Blogger Jesse Hamm said...

Al -- thanks for the compliment, and the heads-up about Debra Paget. A Frazetta face indeed! I wonder if he followed her films.

7/04/2011 10:02 AM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

>where it would never exist in real >life.

Ah, finally a subject fit for learned discourse! ;D

I disagree with "never"; will grant "rarely". Living in a country blessed with the daily view and personal acquaintance of "mulatas" (meaning, women of mixed black/white ancestry, mostly from the old Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique and also Brasil), I can guarantee that more than once have I seen (and drawn, and sometimes dated :)) girls with the kind of "impossible" body you mentioned: wonderful, powerful behinds, strong thighs, and yet a thin, muscular, elegant upper frame with a wasp-like waist that makes you wonder where they keep their inner organs.

I agree it is a far rarer type on white girls (I think I only ever met one girl who would sort of qualify as a Frazetta) but there are a few examples approaching such types in the 50s iconography - but I agree they only sort of get there, and I don't know how much a "talent" hunter would have to search for each such promising young actress/dancer/model/waitress.

My point: Frazetta was not a dreamer, but rather a keen naturalist with an eye for the rare specimen. :)

7/04/2011 10:09 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Antionio

I don't think anyone sees proportions correctly. You would need to know the actual measure of things and then they could be placed in a perspective plan at a given scale.  (Check Menzl's drawing he actual writes the measure of things down.) I think the eye sees what the mind cares about.  Most old master works have distortions when compared to real people.  I am sure the flame like rhythm to El Greco's figures was a much more powerful motivating force then concerns about making his figure too long.  This just pop into my head, it is also possible that the paintings where meant to be hung high, in that case the distortions my not have appeared so strange.

7/04/2011 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Hegel said...

Love is more than the phenomenology of the spirit.

7/04/2011 10:21 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

in and of themselves.

You're offering that as the ideal? You're watching way too much TV.

7/04/2011 12:53 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Antonio did you happen to keep any phone numbers?

7/04/2011 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

António Araújo – “girls with …a wasp-like waist that makes you wonder where they keep their inner organs”

In the 19th century, corsets reinforced with whalebone and steel helped Victorian women sculpt their hourglass figures. Tightly laced and used overtime this caused their ribcage to deform and organs to shift.

See diagram for the grisly details:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:VictorianCorset.gif

7/04/2011 1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David , as you have with many of your posts and observations , you've helped me appreciate an artist I only was aware of in the past .

But - in terms of butts I have to side with Antonio . Frazetta painted 100's of women , drew 1000's and while some , many , fall into the type of exaggeration in your examples there are many which don't - some of the figures in the Arcanum pencil book are plausible .

Or , look at Catgirl , one of his best - and watch Debra Paget in the cobra dance from Indian Epic and tell me she didn't pose for Frank .

Al McLuckie

7/04/2011 5:46 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Immanuel Kant wrote: "...implying a fundamentally subject-based component, rather than being an activity that directly (and therefore without any obvious causal link) comprehends the things as they..."

So much depends on whether Perception is "fundamentally" subjective, with just a superficial appearance of objectivity, or "fundamentally" objective, with
enough subjectivity to keep us from getting too certain. I tend to favor the latter.

Antonio Araujo and Jesse Hamm-- I suspect the popular theory about El Greco and astigmatism is just folklore (although I have never seen an El Greco elongated along a horizontal axis). I do think the theory remains useful for this discussion because it stands for the possibility that in a purely physical sense, our retinas process light rays differently for our optic nerves, making some people perceive figures as elongated, or perceive colors differently, or make people more responsive to rounded shapes than others. It may not be the explanation for El Greco, but I don't think we can rule it out in other instances.

Tom-- That's a nice quote, but I can't think of a famous painter with a worse "feeling for breasts, and buttocks," or for the nude in general, than Renoir. I am not a fan at all. Can anyone help me see what I am missing?

7/04/2011 5:57 PM  
Blogger Jesse Hamm said...

"although I have never seen an El Greco elongated along a horizontal axis"

He often painted hands, arms, etc, elongated along a horizontal axis.

7/04/2011 6:24 PM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

Jesse: very clearly, from your example, he seems to elongate not along the vertical or horizontal, but along the principal axis of the body he is drawing - be it the principal axis of the torso or of the limbs.

Even if one claims that those horizontal arms are not as elongated as the vertical torso, the point is that they are elongated at all, while, if he had the claimed optical problem, then the arms should look fatter than normal (because elongated along the vertical) instead of thiner than normal by any amount at all.

Here is something to check:

-a drawing of a body lying down - does he still elongate along the torso?

-calligraphy or mechanical objects of know proportions - does he elongate those? For instance, the lettering over the figure of christ. If it's just human bodies then clearly it is not optical.

I'm willing to bet that the results show elongation along principal axis, and limited to only specific subjects such as humans.

7/04/2011 7:54 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

There has been speculation that El Greco became rather mentally unhinged. He certainly left behind some head scratchers:

Laocoon

The Vision of Saint John

7/04/2011 7:58 PM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

David: I think, from what you wrote, you missed my point? I'll try again:

The stated thesis is that El Greco looks at things and sees them elongated, hence he paints elongated things.

My stated thesis is not that El Greco had or had not such an optical problem. My thesis is that if he had it, that wouldn't result in elongated pictures at all, because the problem *corrects itself* by its very nature. I'll explain:

Again, for concretness, suppose he sees things elongated on the vertical by 50%. The claim is that then he will paint thing elongated by 50%. This is false. Why?

Because he will, like any of us, paint whatever looks to him on canvas as the true likeness of the model. Now, suppose the model is in reality a square. El Greco will not see a square, but a tall rectangle of proportions 1.5 to 1. Now, will he then draw a rectangle in 1.5/1 proportion? No. Because if he drew that he would not see it as a 1.5/1 rectangle, but as a 2.25/1 rectangle (because his optical problem again would make it seem elongated by 50%). So his drawing would seem to tall *to him*. So, in order to see a 1.5/1 rectangle on the canvas, what will he draw? A square, that's what. Just as you would. Except that you would see it as a square and he as a tall rectangle; still both of you would see it as a correct likeness of the model - the problem corrects itself.

So, if indeed El Greco had that problem, the problem would result in absolutely no detectable difference in his way of painting. That is why the theory is bogus.

As a simpler example suppose a man saw red as green and green as red. Would he paint strangely? Not at all. He would see the grass as red, and he would paint it using the tube that looked like red paint to him - meaning, the green tube, so nobody would notice anything amiss. This happens because the categories in question are isomorphic. Now, this is not true of all such problems. Color blindness, for instance, is noticeable on the canvas because it results not on an isomorphism, but on a contraction of categories - two different colors are seen as the same, and he will grab indifferently the red or green tube, in the given example, and if he grabs the wrong one you will notice it.

7/04/2011 8:12 PM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

A funny thing comes to my mind. Suppose you suffered from such a vertical elongation of the optical perception. Again suppose you faced a square, and you see it as a tall rectangle, measuring around 1.5 to 1. But you know how to measure proportionally like they teach in art school... so you take a finger and place it between you and the square, and measure horizontally. Suppose the finger exactly matches the length of the horizontal side. Now, since the rectangle seems taller than wider, you expect that the finger, turned vertical, will not measure up to the whole vertical side. But as you rotate the finger, the image of the finger suffers the same deformation, and voila, the same finger, now vertical, measures up to exactly the vertical length of the "rectangle"!! So you would either believe that your finger is changing size as it rotates upward (!!) or you will detect that your vision is screwed up because your own measurements contradict your more immediate visual perception.

Actually I'd be willing to bet that such an optical deformation would be corrected by the brain in order to obviate such a dissonance - again, there is an isomorphic mapping going on (no information loss, only deformation) and the brain is pretty good at remapping to eliminate such problems with the hardware that does the raw data collection.

Can anybody point to an actual patient that has the problem El Greco supposedly had? I call shenanigans on the whole notion.

7/04/2011 8:27 PM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

MORAN:

>Antonio did you happen to keep any >phone numbers?

Really, a gentleman does not share such things! ;)

...

(...he sells them! What do you say a hundred bucks per digit? I'll even throw in the country code for free! :D)

7/04/2011 8:33 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

It looks like a lot of his painting where meant to hang high.

http://curetheblind.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/high-altar-santo-domingo-el-antiguo-toledo.jpg


The lengthening doesn’t appear as strong in his portraits,

http://curetheblind.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/knight-hand-breast.jpg

http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/greco/cardinal.jpg



Just curious Antonia why do you think he was painting from a model? And to further support your case if he saw everything taller then it actual is he must have been running and bumping into things his whole life. Ouch

7/04/2011 8:43 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

You guys are aware that El Greco visited Italy and was highly influenced by Mannerism which preferred elongated figures?

THE PROPORTION OF A MANS BODY OF TENNE FACES IN LENGTH AND BREDTH

CHAP. VI.

It standeth with good reason that (following the methode of the ancient Grecians) I should make this body, whose proportion I intende to handle particularly, answerable to the symmetry of all other artificiall bodies, which may be made farre more beautiful, then Nature affordeth any: wherein notwithstanding the whole symmetry of arte may be comprehended more or lesse.


Lomazzo
Trattato dell'arte della pittura, scoltura et architettura

7/04/2011 9:58 PM  
Blogger StimmeDesHerzens said...

The women as depicted by Henry Raleigh move and dress harboring back to the 50ies, when female elegance and charm (as portrayed by rounded naked sloping shoulders & elongated neck) were highly prized. Today what seems to be highly prized by the masses in terms of 'female' beauty is Jennifer Anniston's cuteness, or Lady Gaga's wierdness. Lady Gaga in a state of languor, looking at the man with bedroom eyes... shoulders and cleavage en déshabillé ? hmmm. What a notion! How absurd!
We hope that you do not need to go into the witness protection program! ...is this not your addiction....gB

7/04/2011 11:33 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Also, it impresses me that Raleigh was well aware that women are more flexible than men, and slightly exaggerates the fact to emphasize feminine gestures and body language.

7/05/2011 12:13 AM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

Tom:

>why do you think he was painting >from a model?

I used the example of painting from the model because it is easier to explain, but the same applies if he is painting from memory or imagination (after all when we do that we are comparing our drawing with the "model" in our mind, and that one was built over time under the effect of whatever optical problems we may have)

Etc,etc: Exactly! To me the whole thing screams of mannerism, and if there is historical evidence of a direct influence (I didn't know that, thanks), then it seems the simpler hypothesis. Even without that, arguing simply for personal creativity and stylization is much more credible than summoning a thesis of mental illness, not to speak of preposterous self-contradictory optical disfunctions. I think such strong claims would require strong evidence to support them, while arguing for simple creativity does not.

7/05/2011 3:35 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Yes etc,etc , good point I know El Greco is a mannerist and that he was influence by such artist as Tintoretto. But proportions of figures where often change if a picture or sculpture was going to be well above he height of the viewer to compensate for perspective distortions.

7/05/2011 6:41 AM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

Anonymous: impressive corset picture! Literally Stomach-(and liver, etc)turning!

Tom: If elevation was the point, what of the fact that he seems to elongate also along the horizontal , as we've seen in some examples? Those arms on the cross would look absurdly thin, for instance, as they are squeezed at a right angle to the deformation of the legs and torso. (One could always argue he made a mistake in those cases, but that seems sort of a lame error...:))

7/05/2011 7:23 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

António,
Well, personally I think Mannerism is the place to begin when attempting to understand El Greco, but there is still some kind of strange, disturbed eccentricity that goes beyond Mannerism in my opinion.

7/05/2011 8:44 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Hegel-- Thanks for the Jennifer Love Hewitt clip. Now that you have come back from the dead to contribute to this forum, perhaps you can answer a question that I have long wondered about: Would you have ever written the Phenomenology of the Spirit, or the Phenomenology of the Mind, if you'd had the option of spending your time looking at Jennifer Love Hewitt prancing around in her underwear?

Antonio Araujo wrote: "David: I think, from what you wrote, you missed my point?"

Quite possibly, although I was trying to concede your point. I certainly agree with your argument (and Jesse's) that horizontal elongation (from bent arms, etc.) tends to disprove astigmatisim as the explanation for El Greco's style.

As for your related argument that El Greco's perception of his painting would be as exaggerated as his perception of reality, thereby restoring the picture to normalcy, I believe I understand your theory and I agree that it takes care of part of the problem. I am just not certain that all visual or psychological impairments are so finely calibrated that they would return the picture precisely to a state of normalcy.

For example, if your eyes exaggerated long shapes, or warm colors, or busy details, because that's what titillated your retina (to use a highly unscientific explanation) I agree that you would also perceive your painting as more elongated or warm or busy than it "really" was, but I am not sure that nets out to normalcy. Why couldn't you make your painting even more elongated or warm or busy (because you like that effect and more is better)? If an anorexic looks in the mirror and sees herself as heavier than she really is, I suspect her self portrait is not likely to adjust and return a "normal" weight.

I'm not saying that any of this happened with El Greco. I don't know his art, or ophthalmology, nearly well enough to begin to opine. All I am trying to do is preserve a placeholder for the possibility that there may be a physical, neurological reason for the perceptual preferences of some artists.

Al McLuckie-- It won't surprise you to hear that I had no trouble finding Debra Paget's cobra dance on line. Apparently she has quite the fan club out there, and I understand why; she is not much of an actor but she is certainly a hottie. My only observation is that she does not conform to Frazetta's fantasy girl stereotype in that her shoulders are broader than her hips. Frazetta's imaginary girl tended to have frail shoulders (which did not hinder her ability to kill saber tooth tigers or to maintain good posture against the weight of huge breasts). Her shoulders were definitely narrower than her hips, which I think was an important part of Frazetta's aesthetic distortion.

7/05/2011 8:49 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Etc, etc wrote: " Raleigh was well aware that women are more flexible than men"

Have you ever talked to a woman?


"Personally I think Mannerism is the place to begin when attempting to understand El Greco, but there is still some kind of strange, disturbed eccentricity that goes beyond Mannerism in my opinion."

I agree. There were a lot of improbably elongated figures painted by mannerist artists, but only El Greco took it so far, and mixed in enough other eccentric elements' that many people assumed he had an eye disorder. You didn't hear that about most mannerist painters.

7/05/2011 12:35 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Have you ever talked to a woman?

No. Great point.

7/05/2011 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From my inside sources , I know that when Debra posed for Frazetta for Catgirl , she had just come off a Krispy Kreame binge and that her hips at that time were indeed a little wider than her shoulders .

Glad you saw the cobra dance , the movie is not one of my favorite Langs , but her dancing is worth catching .

Hope sometime if you're in a frivolous mood , you might craft a post on Vallejo's crucifixion - it deserves one and the comments might be interesting .

Al

7/05/2011 2:18 PM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

>... there may be a physical, >neurological reason for the >perceptual preferences of some >artists.

Granted. My objection went only so far as that one specific mechanism.

>I am just not certain that all >visual or psychological >impairments are so finely >calibrated that they would return >the picture precisely to a state >of normalcy.

Certainly not. Certain effects are not compensated at all (color blindness - or blindness itself, as an extreme example!), and in others there will be only a partial compensation. The compensation in El Greco's alleged mechanism works so precisely because it needs no precise matching of opposing effects - the one alleged effect opposes *itself*, hence it is automatically "calibrated".

>Why couldn't you make your >painting even more elongated or >warm or busy (because you like >that effect and more is better)?

Full agreement. We caricature what we find striking, and what we find striking is dependent in part on our physiology. So El Greco (again assuming for a moment his "condition"), living in a deformed optical world of tall objects, might tend to caricature and exagerate the "fact" that things in the world were so generally much taller than wider. That argument, of an indirect influence over his style, is not touched by my point, which merely states that he wouldn't be elongating things while unwittingly trying to draw them realisticaly. Hence the reason for his style would still be a deliberate act of creativity, even if *motivated* by physiology.
However, the other arguments we made regarding inconsistencies (the horizontal arms, etc) still defeat even that weaker proposition in El Greco's specific case- but your general point is both interesting and valid.

7/06/2011 9:25 PM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

However, it is hard to know how strong such physiological effects are compared to the psychological ones, and mere accidents of experience. Taking the example of your post, I used to be a shoulderblade freak myself ("oh how the spine of the shoulder blade shines under the sun!", "oh, wonders, I think I can feel the hint of your coracoid process!"), but, experience of all sorts made me first a posterior devoté of Frazetta proportions, and then, alas, what my ignorant younger self would have regarded as the bluntest of savages, a mamary gland worshiper. Like Picasso claimed, I started subtle and then it took me half my life to grow into a savage!! :D (Finally, in my present state, I achieved synthesis and an appreciation of the whole form, free from specific fetishes - or, as my gf would say, a pervert who can't see a skirt without finding something to like about its contents :p)

The point being that at least in my case my obsessions (expressed -poorly, but devotedly- in my drawings) were not at all physiological but wholly dependent on what women I had collided with in my personal life, and how they had impressed me (you could guess who I was dating by how the physical aspect of my "imaginary" characters changed - a common thing with draughtsmen, I bet, and a terrible curse on those among them trying to keep an affair secret! :)). All of this is, of course, a cliché, a common experience among any who draw, and so, upon detecting any sort of obsessive tendency in an artist's work I would usually attribute it to such common causes as these rather than to some interesting and rare phisiological aberration - simply because, being rare, they should require proper evidence to merit consideration (Occam and all that).

In the case of El Greco, we know all artists try to be original, and we know he knew something about mannerism, so if he has a striking original style that hints of mannerism, it is natural to attribute that to deliberate stylization and innovation rather than to some rare condition, unless the evidence is strong for the latter - no matter how much more exciting that thesis might be.

Oh, and on the matter of the shoulders vs hips on Frazzetta's girls, your point is very good, that "disproportion" is indeed the hardest to find in real life.

7/06/2011 9:26 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Al McLuckie-- I have to admit I was surprised that Fritz Lang was responsible for Debra Paget's cobra dance. Perhaps the opportunity to direct Ms. Paget in that little costume was too much for even the most legendary director to resist. Anyway, thanks for adding her to my lexicon. As for the Boris Vallejo crucifixion-- I agree, that is an all time pinnacle of dumbnicity.

Antonio Araujo-- you have certainly persuaded me on the El Greco / astigmatism point. I suppose I never really thought it through. (Apparently, neither did a lot of other people, because the legend has been around for a great many years.)

I am also glad to hear that, after rotating through all of the possible attributes (shoulder blades, posteriors, breasts, etc.) you have finally found the perfect balance of the total person. Of course, I don't remember seeing anything about rotating through personality, sense of humor, intelligence or other fine attributes but I'm sure they were in there somewhere.

7/07/2011 10:08 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Wow, really enlightening, thanks a ton!

7/07/2011 12:08 PM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

>(...)rotating through personality, >sense of humor, intelligence or >other fine attributes but I'm sure >they were in there somewhere.

What on earth are you talking about? What weird fetishes you have! :D

You know how women say they want a man that makes them laugh? It is true! What they won't specify (but you may observe), is that once an real hunk enters the room they will laugh at whatever he says :)

7/07/2011 5:26 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

i love seeing how different artists exaggerate, stylize and distort the human form until it excites their eye. anyone who draws knows that there are certain shapes that are just a pleasure to draw, and it's almost impossible to resist tweaking or re-moulding form.

the limitless ability of the drawn / painted image to exclude certain aspects of reality and highlight others is for me, almost the whole point of it.

7/08/2011 5:40 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Richard-- thanks for writing.

Antonio Araujo-- I read your comment about making women laugh to my wife, to see if it would make her laugh. Fortunately, it did.

Laurence John-- I feel exactly the same way. This rich variety of perspectives, and what it reveals about the nervous system of the person wielding the pencil, is a never ending source of inspiration and growth for me.

7/09/2011 8:28 AM  
Blogger Li-An said...

Raleigh is one of my favorite artist. But the "shoulder and back" fetishism seems to be very common in the roaring 30's. Just have a look at LaGatta's, Leyendecker's or Patterson's work. I think it was "in the air".

7/09/2011 12:13 PM  
Anonymous traditional sweets said...

I really like paintings. And this paintings are treasure to me it really looks heaven. I wonder how much inspiration does is take to create this wonderful artworks.

7/10/2011 9:39 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Li-An, I agree with you that we seem to go through phases where cultures (and fashion designers and illustrators) accentuate different features on the human body, and shoulders did seem to have their day back in the era of the stylish "debutante slouch." However, when it comes to John LaGatta I have to side with Smurfswacker above, who describes LaGatta as "maestro of the firm derriere." LaGatta's women may have worn evening gowns that revealed bare shoulders, but for me there is no mistaking the true focus of his attention: tight female posteriors.

7/11/2011 4:52 PM  
Blogger Li-An said...

Well, it seems I have to study this part seriously...

7/11/2011 5:05 PM  
Blogger Jack R said...

Love this post. Enoch Bolles once wrote in a letter that shoulders were his favorite 'part'. I'd thought it was hands until I read this and then I couldn't look at his paintings again the same way.

8/02/2011 10:18 PM  

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