Year 10 Art assignment: The Human Figure

The human figure in art carries, in different ways and through different periods, a huge significance, being the most direct means by which art can address the human condition.  In early societies its significance was supernatural, a rendering of gods or spirits in human form.  For centuries depictions of the human figure were prized more highly than those of still life, animals or landscape

Artists have used the human figure as the vehicle to tell stories and narratives to the audience. The way the figure is represented the style, size, colour, setting all means used to communicate legends chronicles or myths.

This gallery displays how artists from past and present have used the human figure as a means to tell stories. Some artists have drawn on well known stories while other have used narratives that are known only to those of their own cultural group

El Greco created a number of Christ on the Cross paintings throughout his life. Many examples of the type seen here with its dramatic background filled with black, roiling clouds, can be found amongst the works of both El Greco and his followers. The background motifs, namely the combination of figures on horseback and buildings, were rendered in various different combinations. In all instances, however, the figure of Christ is shown in elongated form, and the elegant curve of his body along with his facial expression reveal more religious ecstasy than suffering.
This work depicts Mary Magdalene, one of the religious characters who most effectively attested to the virtues of penitence and repentance. In medieval Western imagery, three characters were united in her figure -the Mary Magdalene who witnessed the crucifixion, Mary of Bethany, the sister of the resuscitated Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene, the repentant sinner who anointed Christ’s feet with precious ointment. 
Cupid Triumphant is about Cupid’s superior power in relation to the gods. “Triumphant” is not to be understood here as “exultant”; there is no self-satisfied malicious delight in the way in which Cupid is looking at the arrow’s point. “Triumphant” means purely and simply “victorious” – victorious over the other gods: 
'The Expulsion' completes the cycle of work concerned with biblical themes, which began with 'The shepherd' and 'The Mockers'. Based on the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve, the figures relate strongly to the figurative motifs of fifteenth century Florentine painter Masaccio. However, Boyd translates this early Renaissance pictorial idea into an Australian idiom, setting the scene within an antipodean wilderness.
Don Quixote was the human figure he painted most often; this work is regarded as his earliest on that subject. When Daumier began to concentrate on this series of works, his eyesight was failing and he was falling into financial distress. He passionately painted Don Quixote again and again, crossing desert and mountains with Sancho Panza or attacking a flock of sheep, mistaking them for the enemy. Towards the end of the series, it became impossible to identify the paintings with a particular scene from the novel: Daumier simply shows us, in simplified, loose brushwork, two men on horseback, isolated from society. It is likely that Daumier, who never ceased to denounce the corruption of authority and the fraudulence of society, identified with Don Quixote, another solitary idealist.
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