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.
But are their revolutionary ideas entirely
Consider three artistic endeavors:
· Sculpting the human
form on a solid surface
the theme of Mother and Child
· Creating three-dimensional
space on a
Centuries after the creation of the
Easter Island monoliths and the stoic
Egyptian deities, Greek artists during the
Hellenic period sculpted lifelike
What the Greeks had accomplished,
and the Romans
copied, was all but
forgotten until the beginning of the
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
19th Century was the culmination.
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
Artists' interpretations of
Mother and Child evolved
from small, squat, Precolumbian
stone figures to medieval,
of the Madonna and Child
shimmering in gold leaf. Serenity
and silence are what the artist
chooses to show us.
During the Renaissance,
Michaelangelo lets us marvel at his
Pieta. Over the course of the next
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.
And by the 20th Century,
artists rejected lifelike
and instead, we now confront
the abstract human form, as in
Moore's massive sculptures.
How does an artist make a
three dimensional painting
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.
Japanese and Chinese artists
used line to impart
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.
In contrast to Asian art,
in the religious paintings
Giotto in the 14th century
and van Eyck's painting of the
occupy space but are frozen in
time and place, silent and pale.
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.
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.
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.
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.