Consider the Human Form:  Everything Old is New Again

An artistic genius who "breaks the mold" presents the world with a revolutionary 
visual concept. Each one shows us a new facet of nature or the human condition in 
paint, stone or other medium.

Easter Island and Middle Period Egypt images

But are their revolutionary ideas entirely new?  

Consider three artistic endeavors:

·        Sculpting the human form on a solid surface

·        Interpreting the theme of Mother and Child

·        Creating three-dimensional space on a 

         two-dimensional surface.

Greek Hellenic sculptures

Centuries after the creation of the 

Easter Island monoliths and the stoic 

Egyptian deities, Greek artists during the 

Hellenic period sculpted lifelike 

human figures.

Sculptures by Verrochio and Rodin
What the Greeks had accomplished, 

and the Romans copied, was all but 

forgotten until the beginning of the 

Renaissance, when artists dissected 

cadavers and learned how to chisel out 

realistic human forms in stone or bronze, 

as we see in Verrochio's David. 

Rodin's towering, emotion laden, 

suffering Burghers of Calais in 

the 19th Century was the culmination.  

Sculptures by Lipshitz and Giacometti
With their abstract representations of man 

less than forty years later, artists like Jacques 

Lipshitz and Giacometti reference us 

back to the silent figures of 

the ancient world.

Precolumbian art and Medieval Art

Artists' interpretations of 

Mother and Child evolved 

from small, squat, Precolumbian 

stone figures to medieval, 

two-dimensional paintings

of the Madonna and Child 

shimmering in gold leaf.  Serenity

and silence are what the artist 

chooses to show us.

Michaelangelo sculpture and Marry Cassatt pastel

During the Renaissance, 

Michaelangelo lets us marvel at his

Pieta.  Over the course of the next 

four centuries, realism prevailed

and brought us to impressionism 

and Mary Cassatt's charming pastels. Here, again,

we are witness to the artist's insights into the

subject of Mother and Child.

Henry Moore, Mother and Child

And by the 20th Century, 

artists rejected lifelike images 

and instead, we now confront 

the abstract human form, as in 

Henry Moore's massive sculptures.

Cave painting Lascaux

How does an artist make a 

three dimensional painting 

on a two dimensional surface?  

In the cave paintings of Lascaux, 

primitive man relied on curved 

lines of varied thickness and 

intensity to bring the animals to life.   

Chinese and Japanese paintings

Japanese and Chinese artists 

used line to impart sensuality 

and a suggestion of form and 

movement to their inked 

and painted figures. And though 

the figures are flat and lack

solidity, we glimpse their character and

get a look into everyday life.

Giotto and van Eyck paintings

In contrast to Asian art, 

in the religious paintings 

of Giotto in the 14th century 

and van Eyck's painting of the 

Arnolfini marriage, the figures 

occupy space but are frozen in 

time and place, silent and pale.

Ruben and Vermeer Painting

Later, during the Baroque 

period,  we see Rubens 

lush and exuberant lovers

overflow his canvas with the pleasures 

of the flesh.  And we see Vermeer's 

young woman standing in a

light-filled room and imagine we

might walk in to join her.

Ingres painting
By the 19th century,  Ingres is 

once again celebrating line in his 

portraits of beautiful young women.  

Matisse, the post-impressionist,

turned to color and curved 

embellishments in many of his 

paintings. He outlined this woman 

in black and she becomes part of 

the wall decoration.

African mask and Picasso painting

At the turn of the century, Picasso, 

inspired by African tribal masks,

shocks the art world when he

presents flattened images of nude 

prostitutes in a brothel.

Gauguin and Lichtenstein painting
When Gauguin went to Tahiti, he painted
large, simplified forms, reflecting an island 

life far removed from European culture.
And, by mid-20th century, the pop artist
Roy Lichtenstein compares people in
American society to comic book
characters. Both artists' women
almost fill their canvases, recalling

Giotto's saintly figures who are 

right up against the picture plane.


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