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February 07, 2011

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Charles

Thanks for this, I've seen a couple of these illustrations reproduced in contemporary art instruction books (hooray for the public domain?) but they were never sourced. I think I will head over to the local university library's rare books collection (I bet this book is in the medical library).

But.. the human figure is not really "the most common and stable presentations in art." Representation of the human form has never been stabile. It has changed radically, from the Venus of Willendorf through radical abstraction like De Kooning's women. Even if we pick a middle ground, of artists who were trying for a conventional "representational" portrayal of the human body, with some attempts at accuracy, the techniques of presentation have changed dramatically between art historical eras. Some eras preferred chubby, bulging women; some preferred thin women with exaggerated features that lengthened the body even more. In the eras before extensive anatomy studies reached artists (like this book) naive representations of women varied significantly.
This is one of the reasons art students are required to take Life Drawing classes, so they can grapple with the eternal question of how to represent the human form, and make their own decisions about how it should be represented. All visual arts are an abstraction, the choice of how that abstraction is made is what gives art substance that is more than skin deep.

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