Cape Shore Nov. 1961.
you try
design team

Age 15 - 17+

Figures In Art

Summer of the Karmann Ghia What do you think about when you look at Christopher Pratt's figure works in the Gallery?

Do you think only about what you see and not wonder about what the model is looking at or thinking?

If you are not already, try to become the type of viewer who not only looks but thinks of questions to ask. Then search for some answers.

When nude figures are the subject in art, there does not seem to be any questions to ask because everything seems exposed.

Here is one good question to begin with: Why are people nude in art?

Christopher began drawing from models, both male and female, at the Glasgow School of Art. Trained as a painter in the old European tradition, much of his studio time was dedicated to "drawing from life" that is, making drawings from studying nude models.

Yvonne on a Kitchen ChairImagine attending an art academy that taught using traditional methods. Let's say you are only interested in painting landscapes. It would still be essential for you to know how to draw the proportion of the human figure to be considered a "fine" artist. Since the fifteenth century, it has become a central tradition in Western art for an artist to be able to draw the human figure well. Why is this so?

One of the reasons is that human proportions and gestures are immediately identifiable to everybody who views the artwork. Viewers will be able to detect if, and what part of, a figure is drawn incorrectly by referring to their own bodies.

What do you think about the proportions of the figure in Yvonne on a Kitchen Chair (1979)? What do you think about your own proportions?

Proportion refers to how the smaller parts of a subject make up the whole subject. When something is "in proportion," it means that there is a balanced relationship between the whole's smaller parts. When things are proportionate, the viewer has a sense of satisfaction that the subject portrayed is rendered "correctly".

Trees and Sun Consider this scenario: an artist was to draw two memory images, one of a nude figure and the other of a tree. Would it be more difficult to make a convincing image of a figure than it would be to draw a well-proportioned tree?

Christopher can draw images of houses, rooms, and furniture by pulling these images from a reservoir of memories but he requires the assistance of a model when he plans to include a figure in a picture. His early figure images did not specifically identify the models as his later drawings did.

Young Girl with SeashellsThe figure in the painting, Young Girl with Seashells (1965) represents an ideal form of the human female and not a portrait of the actual person who posed for the painting. The figure in the drawing above, Yvonne on a Kitchen Chair (1979) is a personal study of who the model is.

This change occurred when Christopher began thinking of the individuality of the person who was posing for him as the subject of the painting, as opposed to thinking of the painting as an idea in which he needed to place a figure.

Christopher's ability to draw the figure well gave his work an added measure of credibility.

There are specific guides of measurements that apply to the proportions of the ideal human form that have been in existence since the fifteenth century. These universal measurements dissect the human form into exact proportions. Guides to the proportions of the ideal face are explored in the following art activity section.


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Colinet Bog Land, 1998.