Word Count: 1002Before the portrayal of the human body can be critiqued,you must understand the artist’s culture.
As man evolvedover centuries, his views of the body also transformed. Ourtour definitely showed the drastic changes in differentcultures’ art. Each culture and era presents very distinctcharacteristics. Through time and experimentation, we haveexpressed our views of the human body clearly with ourart. Egyptians were the first people to make a large impacton the world of art. Egyptians needed art for their religiousbeliefs more than decoration or self- gratification.
The mostimportant aspect of Egyptian life is the ka, the part of thehuman spirit that lives on after death. The ka needed aphysical place to occupy or it would disappear. Most ofthe important men of Egypt paid to have their body carvedout of stone. That was were the spirit would live after theman dies.Order now
They used stone because it was the strongestmaterial they could find. Longevity was very important. Thebodies are always idealized and clothed. Figures are veryrigid, close-fisted, and are built on a vertical axis to showthat the person is grand or intimidating. Most of the figureswere seen in the same: profile of the legs, frontal view ofthe torso, and profile of the head. Like most civilizations,Egyptians put a lot of faith in gods.
The sky god Horus, abird, is found in a great amount ! of Egyptian art. Littlerecognition was ever given to the artists. The emphasis wason the patron. Early Greek art was greatly influenced bythe Egyptians. Geography permitted both cultures toexchange their talents.
The beginning of Greek art ismarked by the Geometric phase. The most common artduring the Geometric phase was vase painting. After thevase was formed but before it was painted, the artistapplied a slip (dark pigment) to outside. Then the vase wasfired and the artist would incise his decorations into thehard shell. It was important to incise humans into the firedslip and not paint with slip. The people in the picturesneeded light colored skin, which was the color beneath theslip, because Greeks wanted to make their art as realisticas possible.
Much like Egyptian art, the Greeks idealizedthe bodies of the people in their works. As the ArchaicPeriod evolved, Greek sculptures were almost identical tothe Egyptians’. Unlike Egyptians, the Greeks refined theirtechniques. Greeks used marble to construct theirsculptures.
It was considered more valuable and beautifulthan any material available. They softened the lines of thebody. Greek sculptors slowly perfected every contour inthe human figure. Greek people viewed the human body assomething beautiful and so they depicted nude men.
Women were eventually nude but only when there was areason, they needed to be bathing or something where theywould be naked. They people that are sculpted are alwaysyoung and their bodies are still idealized. The Greeksinvented contrapposto, the relaxed natural stance of asculpture. A figure that is standing in contrappostobecomes a sculpture in the round, meaning that theemphasis is not only on a frontal view but also from allangles. The Hellenistic Period emerged as the Romansbegan to produce some of the finest art in history.
This newrevolutionary style was incredible. Figures weren’t confinedto the unnatural or boring positions they had for centuries. All body parts were in perfect proportion. These statuescame alive as their limbs reached out into space. Vacantstares evolved into human emotions, which were easilyrecognized on their faces. I think this renaissance portrayedthe way people were thinking.
They were exploringphilosophy, religion, and politics. This was a time forrebirth. Christian art was introduced during the middle ofthe second century. In many cases the only differencebetween Christian art and Hellenistic art is the religioussubject matter.
After a slow start the Christians introducedsomething new, the mosaic. Mosaics became a favoritemedium for decorating churches. Man was viewed inreligious scenes due to the spread of Christianity. Byzantineand medieval art was very representative. The artists’ abilityto produce lifelike figures had regressed. The emphasis wasnot on man anymore.
Their art was made to glorify God. The fifteenth century marked the arrival of the Renaissance. Artists have finally recaptured the amazing detail andrealism that the Greeks and Romans perfected. Artistspushed the limits with new exciting mediums and brightcolors.
Filippo Brunelleschi, allowed artists to determinethe relative size of each figure by inventing the vanishingpoint perspective. With that tool it was possible to puteverything in perfect proportion. Humans were not alwaysidealized as they were in earlier centuries. Many elderlypeople are found in the paintings. Neoclassical paintingscommonly showed contemporary garments and scenes.
History painting became very popular. A larger transitionwas made when color was used to set a mood or expressinner feelings. Nothing like this had ever been considered. Man viewed his experiences as important stepping stones. To assure that experiences aren’t forgotten they werepreserved in artworks.
Humans are often used in modernart. Although the people may appear very large orimportant, they are usually just vehicles used to convey amessage to the audience. In Segal’s Red Light, we saw aman walking alone in front of n old truck. The man was notcolored at all. He seemed to be sauntering across a streetat night.
A feeling of depression or sadness surrounds theman. The human is not important but the emotion is. Mostof the modern art uses the human body to portray a feelingor emotion. Rarely will you find any new art that displays ahumans because they extraordinary. Romantic landscapingis incredible.
The idea of most of these pieces is to showhow insignificant man is. Before humans were always thecenter of attention but now here they are almost trivial. Artists like Thomas Cole show us what is pure and simple. The paintings use a lot of color to create very natural,unaffected scenes.
It seems that we come upon theselandscapes almost by accident. They depict ideal settingsthat are unscathed by the injustices of the world. In myopinion, the beauty of these works is unsurpassed by anyother art. Through the ages each culture had its owninterpretation of what the human body means. I have brieflyexplained a few of the broadest views of the human body.
In order to explain one in great detail would take volumes. I thoroughly enjoyed Mona’s tour of the museum and Ihope to see her there again.