The Treatment of the Human Figure: a Travel Through Time Essay

1247 Words Mar 13th, 2013 5 Pages
The Treatment of the Human Figure: Examining Interpretations Through History

Throughout history artists have been fascinated with the human figure. Before photography was invented, painting, drawing and printmaking served as the only forms of visual documentation. It often felt the purpose of art was to capture a likeness; often the beauty of the human figure was stressed and imperfections of those who were being portrayed were minimized. Thus, here was little room for artistic expression or distortion of the human figure. However, beginning in the 19th century artists began to use the human figure as a model that could be manipulated and simplified to create captivating and intriguing artistic works as oppose to something that
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This can be noted in his work entitled, “Girl with a Kitten” (1947). In this piece, the proportions are not that of a typical female and the shapes used are simplified. There are no creases in the models face, wrinkles, freckles or hair that would be normally present in that of a female. Despite the lack of emotion expressed by the figure, the unflinching realism depicted can make the viewer feel uncomfortable. The focus in both these artists’ works is simplicity drawn from human figure. The measure to which both artists express the human figure shows that beauty can be captured by straying away from the stereotypical definition of beauty, and breaking into the realm of simple, raw beauty. Studies of the human figure have lead to the development of numerous art movements. Pablo Picasso’s work is a perfect of example to illustrate this point. From 1909-1912, Picasso alongside George Braque developed the artistic style known today as Cubism. Breaking down the human figure into simple shapes, most commonly cubes, describes this type form of drawing. One of Picasso’s famous works in this genre of art is, “Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler” (1910). In this painting, a man is depicted through the use of simple shapes and simple colors. Though to some this figure does not look like that of a man at all, it is clear by the composition and balance in the piece that it is an abstract interpretation of a

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