Artists’ representations of the human body

By Ruchika Juneja

Human body is considered to be one of the most beautiful and difficult subject to draw and paint in the art world. Artists spend years honing the art of representing them. Some go for contemporary style, some academic, abstract, representational or sculptural. Whatever type of style it may be, they all spend a lot of time studying the anatomy and forms of the body. All this might not be too evident, but it definitely goes in the mind of the artist. The marvels of human body endlessly inspire engineers and scientists to innovate in their respective fields. 

When studying in Florence, I studied with a senior artist who had spent 7 years just studying anatomy with a maestro in Venice. That is the obsession and awe of an artist for creating beautiful artwork of human body. In the ateliers all over the world, many years are spent just training the eye to paint the nude models from life. Initially drawing/painting a figure from life is intimidating but then you start appreciating the nuances and beauty of this universe’s most complicated creation. The best part is, all bodies are beautiful in the eye of an artist. Each body has its own story to tell and it is depicted in the most bizarre and traditional ways in art from centuries.

Below are a few examples of 

  1. Academic Style – Michelangelo Buonarroti( 1475- 1564) – He was considered to be a master in portraying human figure. He used to first examine the corpses in the convent of Santo Spirito in Florence when he was in his late teens.
    In the figure here you can see how he works in a structural way finding the form in each part of the body and sculpting it using the red chalk. The figure almost breathes like a sculpture.

“Madonna and the child” is one the famous topics depicted by many artists from 14th to 20th centuries. One of my favourite depictions is below

  1. Pable Picasso
    This piece of Picasso is from his “Blue period” when he completely abandoned realism. The way he has painted this piece in blue and with a closed gesture brings to mind a sense of despair. Although the man is sad and is poor, yet his inner mind is trying to feel some kind of hope through his music, which holds very dearly.
  1. Aleah Chapin
    This piece by Chapin evokes the scream from one’s soul. With the way she has depicted the inside of her mouth and the gesture calls for a woman, who is tired of everything and just want to let everything out

I really like the way she invokes women emotions through her paintings. As I remember from one of the podcast I heard, the first painting is of a breast cancer survivor.

  1. Jennifer Ann Saville
    She is a contemporary British painter known for her large-scale painted depictions of nudes. Her work represents the actuality of real bodies. 
  1. Fernando Botero
    He was a Colombian figurative artist and sculptor who had a signature style known as “ Boterismo”, depicts people and figures in large exaggerated volume. Not to my liking, but definitely art has been pushing boundaries and this is yet another example of how bodies can be used to make a point in this world.
  1. Pan Xunqin, China ( 1906 – 1986)
    Another example of self-expression in art. 

Subscribe to our newsletter To Recieve Updates

    The Latest
    • An interview with the Editors of Poetry at Sangam

      Taking down Poetry at Sangam must have generated a plethora of flashbacks of

    • The Usawa Newsletter February ‘24

      How JLF helped me with my undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD In the bustling city of

    • Artists’ representation of the human body by Ruchika Juneja

      the years of growing up were spent in finding ways to belong and belonging in

    • Preface to Mumbai Traps by Anju Makhija

      the years of growing up were spent in finding ways to belong and belonging in

    You May Also Like
    • Country Poems by Kiran Bhat

      I had a black skin once, but I took myself to the edges

    • Arundhati Subramaniam’s Women Who Wear Themselves review by Dr Rahana K Ismail

      The world is split Blocks and brackets Sects and silos Each with a checklist

    • Three Poems By Sonnet Mondal

      Birth of a Hill Shining through the cracks of life the warmth of wisdom