Tuesday, October 02, 2018


Artist Gaston Lachaise spent a lifetime drawing and sculpting nude images of his wife and muse, Isabel.  She weighed a mere 110 pounds when they met, yet he always envisioned her as an immense, rotund goddess.

Isabel viewed through the lens of a camera and through the eyes of her husband.
No matter how short she appeared standing next to her husband in clothing, when her clothing was removed she seemed to tower over him.

Illustrator Robert McGinnis spent a career painting women so tall and thin, the poor creatures look as if they'd been elongated in a tractor pull.

McGinnis claims his inspiration for his females was a beautiful supermodel from his youth, Dorian Leigh.  But Leigh was a mere 5 feet, five inches tall.  She wouldn't have reached the navel of one of McGinnis' stalky giants.

Model Dorian Leigh

And on and on it goes.  Pin up artist George Petty loved women's legs out of all proportion:

George Petty

These are each skillful artists, so the consistently odd proportions of the women they painted can't be attributed to technical incompetence.  These distortions are born of genuine perceptions and expressive needs.  

In the words of Dr. Oliver Sacks: "The world isn't given to us-- we make it with our nervous systems."  

Clothed subjects give our nervous systems a wide variety of things to react to-- folds, patterns, textures, artificially designed lines-- but when working with the bare human form, our reduced choices often seem more revelatory, and closer to the core.


Norman Boyd said...

I have always thought a lot of Frank Bellamy's women are based on the model he had available at home - his wife Nancy even down to the shape of her breasts!

Frances Rowell said...

When we talk about art we think about the variety of colors and textures that can be experienced in the world of the arts, fantastically it can be created with only thought, for this endless materials and tools are used in several areas: Design, painting , sculpture, architecture, even in literature. Do you know Gabino Amaya Cacho? He is a great painter from Spain, he is one of those who has inspired me to devote myself to art, to oil painting. If anyone knows tricks to improve the technique would be grateful to be informed.

Gianmaria Caschetto said...

I'm fascinated by Robert Crumb's ladies, often portrayed with meaty, robust lower limbs. If I'm not mistaken, Crumb admitted his predilection for women with such legs.
Another cartoonist, italian Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri, who drew his character of Druuna as a prosperous, plumpy brunette, stated he doesn't even look at skinny models.
I have personally have other preferences, but isn't this part of the enjoyment in looking figurative art? Seeing the subject through the artist's unique perspective and state of mind and connecting to his or her taste, preferences or idiosyncrasies?

David Apatoff said...

Norman Boyd-- Thanks, I hadn't seen that but I enjoyed it. For reasons that are probably unworthy, I get an additional layer of enjoyment from an artist's nude treatment of their spouse. Kley's depiction of himself at home with his nude wife, or Archibald Motley's portraits of his wife-- first chastely dressed in hat, dress and furs of the era, then stripped of everything-- seem to be letting us in on a special secret.

Frances Rowell-- I wasn't familiar with Cacho. Thanks for writing.

Gianmaria Caschetto-- Hah, yes Crumb is not at all shy about his preferences. Serpieri as well, although Crumb puts more of his genetic makeup into his drawings than Serpieri does.

As we talk about these examples, it occurs to me that it is easy to come up with a list of male artists who distort images that way, but I'm having trouble coming up with female artists who do the same. Can anyone suggest a few?

-blessed b9, Catalyst4Christ said...

Dijoo know this?
Lemme gonna wanna betcha DIDNT!!!!!!!!!!