Research Point: Historic and Contemporary Artists’ use of the Body’s Underlying Structure

When I first looked at this Research Point, I was rather hesitant to look into it as I thought that, whilst I really enjoy drawing the exterior of the figure, the underlying structure did not really appeal to me too much. However, I decided I had to look deeper than I would have by choice and was surprised to come across a few pieces which actually caught my intrigue.

Firstly, I knew from general knowledge garnered over the years that a keen lover of the human figure was da Vinci, with his Vitruvian Man so I decided to look into whether he had studied the underlying structures (as I was not aware of this side of his workings) and was rather surprised to find the below image.

Fig. 1. da Vinci, L Pen-and-Ink Studies of Human Fetus (1510)

Whilst the fetus appears to be intact and covered with skin, it is clearly shown as though from within a woman’s womb. This fascinated me as clearly da Vinci really was interested in all parts of the human body and I think these notes and sketches and the delicate techniques used to create the baby shows his admiration for the whole process of our coming into being and his respect for nature’s powers and beauty. Da Vinci has used hatching and the shadowed areas to show the depth of the sketch’s details and also and the roundness of the fetus’s enclosure. The only detail in the sketch is created purely by shadowed areas. I think this could be really useful for me to recreate in areas I struggle with, toes and fingers for example.

Fig. 2. del Barbiere, D Two Flayed Men and their Skeletons (c. 1540 to 1545)

I came across the above image and found it rather interesting. The piece shows two men whose muscles are all exposed, standing next to what appears to be their own skeletons. Whilst there is a lot of detail in this piece, I really like how the artist has, just like da Vinci, used shadow to show the parts and finder details of the men instead of having drawn each part individually. I like how the artist has used more of a solid coloured approach in the piece, using the side of the pencil as opposed to the point. The artist has also used a broad tonal range throughout which, again, I can bear in mind for my own pieces.

Fig. 3. Rubens, P Anatomical Studies: A Left Forearm in Two Positions and a Right Forearm (c. 1600 to 1605)

I find the piece above slightly disturbing for some reason; I think perhaps it is because it appears unnatural and malformed. The index fingers also appear to be placed in unnatural positions; I think these are natural positions, but without the overlay of skin, they appear somewhat disjointed. However, I really like how the artist has used very light and precise cross-hatching and other techniques throughout to bring depth to the piece. The darkest areas of the piece have also not been created in too heavy a hand and do not appear to be as dark as they possibly could. This is something I definitely struggle with as I really enjoy creating the darkest parts, however, it is something I need to work on controlling to better myself.

Fig. 4. Dine, J The Side View (1986)

When I came across the above image, I was instantly drawn in and mesmerised by it. I just love how dark the darkest areas are, how the whole top right-hand corner is very shadowed and the lower left corner rather light. The markings used to create the shadowing to the depth of the skull are very expressive. Before I started this research, I was not very keen on the skull as a subject, however, since seeing this piece, I have become fascinated with it and consider it is something I think I will really enjoy working with. I think the reason I am drawn to it is because there are hardly any fine details besides the teeth, but there are several angles and deep hollows in such places as the eye and nose cavities. There are also areas where shadows do not really hit, such as the bulk of the bulbous part area and the fore-front contours of the teeth. I can really see myself creating something very similar to this and use the skull as a focal point within my work.

Fig. 5. MalteGruhl 196978999515 (unknown)

Again, when I came across this piece, I was instantly drawn to it but for slightly different reasons. Whilst the artist has also used the skull, this time the marks have been made using more of a brush stroke technique and the paint applied rather liberally. It appears almost as though the skull has been covered with material and the lower part removed. I really like the block colours and contrast between the darker and lighter areas. The top of the skull does not quite look right to me. The outline looks rather wrong and cartoon-like. I think the piece would have been much better without the addition of the outline. However, it does work to create a sense that the outline is somehow above the rest of the piece, for example as though it has been drawn on a sheet of tracing paper and placed on top of the original.

I like this method and think I will give it a try as it will come in rather handy when I have to create pieces which have blocks of tonal values.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. da Vinci, L (1510) Pen-and-Ink Studies of Human Fetus [Pen and ink] At: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leonardo-da-Vinci/media/1/336408/15647 (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

Fig. 2. del Barbiere, D (c. 1540 to 1545) Two Flayed Men and their Skeletons [engraving] At: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/49.95.181/ (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

Fig. 3. Rubens, P (c. 1600 to 1605) Anatomical Studies: A Left Forearm in Two Positions and a Right Forearm [pen and brown ink] At: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1996.75/ (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

Fig. 4. Dine, J (1986) The Side View [etching, soft-ground etching and drypoint on paper] At: https://i12bent.tumblr.com/post/705695652/jim-dine-the-side-view-1986-etching (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Fig. 5. MalteGruhl (Unknown) 196978999515 [painting] At: https://www.designspiration.net/save/196978999515/ (Accessed on 21 August 2019)

Bibliography

Arcy Art. (Unknown) ‘Structure – Arcy Art Original Oil Paintings Art Dictionary’ [online] At: https://www.arcyart.com/ad-structure.htm (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

Britannica. (Unknown) ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Italian Artist, Engineer and Scientist’ [online] At: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leonardo-da-Vinci/Anatomical-studies-and-drawings (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

The Metropolitan Museum. (2002) ‘Anatomy in the Renaissance’ [online] At: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/anat/hd_anat.htm (Accessed on 15 August 2019)

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