- Thebes c. 1400 BCE
- 5th-century mural painting from the Ajanta Caves, India
- Winged genius, fragment. Second-style mural painting, Roman artwork, late 1st century BCE.
A figure painting is a work of fine art in any of the painting media with the primary subject being the human figure, whether clothed or nude. Figure painting may also refer to the activity of creating such a work. The human figure has been one of the constant subjects of art since the first stone age cave paintings, and has been reinterpreted in various styles throughout history.
Unlike figure drawings which are usually nudes, figure paintings are often historical, mythological, allegorical or imaginary depictions that may have figures in appropriate costumes. A portrait painting is a figure painting that focuses on the creation of a likeness of a particular individual or group.
The nude has been a theme in Western art since classical antiquityand again in Renaissance art, after being largely absent during the Middle Ages. Oil paint historically has been the ideal media for depicting the figure. By blending and layering paint, the surface can become more like skin. "Its slow drying time and various degrees of viscosity enable the artist to achieve rich and subtle blends of color and texture, which can suggest transformations from one human substance to another." Although working from live models is preferred, the length of time needed to complete a painting has led most modern painters to use photographs as references at least part of the time if not for the entire work.
Figure painting is not synonymous with figurative art, which may depict real objects of any kind (including humans and animals).
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that "Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau."
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was a French Neoclassical painter. Ingres was profoundly influenced by past artistic traditions and aspired to become the guardian of academic orthodoxy against the ascendant Romantic style. Although he considered himself a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, it is his portraits, both painted and drawn, that are recognized as his greatest legacy. His expressive distortions of form and space made him an important precursor of modern art, influencing Picasso, Matisse and other modernists.
Edgar Degas was a French Impressionist artist famous for his pastel drawings and oil paintings.
Théodore Chassériau was a Dominican-born French Romantic painter noted for his portraits, historical and religious paintings, allegorical murals, and Orientalist images inspired by his travels to Algeria. Early in his career he painted in a Neoclassical style close to that of his teacher Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, but in his later works he was strongly influenced by the Romantic style of Eugène Delacroix. He was a prolific draftsman, and made a suite of prints to illustrate Shakespeare's Othello. The portrait he painted at the age of 15 of Prosper Marilhat, makes Théodore Chassériau the youngest painter exhibited at the Louvre museum.
Olympia is a painting by Édouard Manet, first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon, which shows a nude woman ("Olympia") lying on a bed being brought flowers by a servant. Olympia was modelled by Victorine Meurent and Olympia's servant by the art model Laure. Olympia's confrontational gaze caused shock and astonishment when the painting was first exhibited because a number of details in the picture identified her as a prostitute. The French government acquired the painting in 1890 after a public subscription organized by Claude Monet. The painting is on display at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
An art model poses for any visual artist as part of the creative process, providing a visual reference for the human figure in a work of art. However, more than being simply the subject of art, models are often thought of as muses, a source of inspiration without whom the art would not exist. The most common types of art works that use models are figure drawing, figure painting, sculpture and photography, but almost any medium may be used.
The Birth of Venus is one of the most famous paintings by 19th-century painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. It depicts not the actual birth of Venus from the sea, but her transportation in a shell as a fully mature woman from the sea to Paphos in Cyprus. She is considered the epitome of the Classical Greek and Roman ideal of the female form and beauty, on par with Venus de Milo.
A figure study is a drawing or painting of the human body made in preparation for a more composed or finished work; or to learn drawing and painting techniques in general and the human figure in particular. By preference, figure studies are done from a live model, but may also include the use of other references and the imagination of the artist. The live model may be clothed, or nude, but is usually nude for student work in order to learn human anatomy.
Depictions of nudity include visual representations of nudity throughout history, in disciplines including the arts and sciences. Nudity is restricted in most societies, but some depictions of nudity may serve a recognized social function. Clothing also serves as a significant part of interpersonal communication, and a lack of clothing in public is expected to have a social context. In Western societies, the three contexts that are easily recognized by a majority of individuals are art, pornography, and information or science. Any image not easily fitting into one of these categories may be misinterpreted, leading to disputes.
The nude, as a form of visual art that focuses on the unclothed human figure, is an enduring tradition in Western art. It was a preoccupation of Ancient Greek art, and after a semi-dormant period in the Middle Ages returned to a central position with the Renaissance. Unclothed figures often also play a part in other types of art, such as history painting, including allegorical and religious art, portraiture, or the decorative arts. From prehistory to the earliest civilizations, nude female figures are generally understood to be symbols of fertility or well-being.
Grande Odalisque, also known as Une Odalisque or La Grande Odalisque, is an oil painting of 1814 by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres depicting an odalisque, or concubine. Ingres' contemporaries considered the work to signify Ingres' break from Neoclassicism, indicating a shift toward exotic Romanticism.
The Turkish Bath is an oil painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, initially completed between 1852 and 1859, but modified in 1862. The painting depicts a group of nude women at a pool in a harem. It has an erotic style that evokes both the Near East and earlier western styles associated with mythological subject matter. The painting expands on a number of motifs that Ingres had explored in earlier paintings, in particular The Valpinçon Bather (1808) and La Grande odalisque (1814).
The Valpinçon Bather is an 1808 painting by the French Neoclassical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867), held in the Louvre since 1879. Painted while the artist was studying at the French Academy in Rome, it was originally titled Seated Woman but later became known after one of its nineteenth-century owners.
Odalisque with Slave is an 1839 painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres commissioned by Charles Marcotte. Executed in oil on canvas, it depicts a nude odalisque, a musician, and a eunuch in a harem interior. The painting is in the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is a classic piece of Orientalism in French painting.
La Femme au perroquet is an oil painting on canvas by French artist Gustave Courbet. It was the first nude by the artist to be accepted by the Paris Salon in 1866 after a previous entry in 1864 was rejected as indecent. It is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York city.
Roger Freeing Angelica or Ruggiero Freeing Angelica is an 1819 painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, inspired by Orlando Furioso by Ariosto. An oil painting on canvas measuring 147 x 199 cm, it is owned by the Louvre. Ingres subsequently painted several variants of the composition.
Oedipus and the Sphinx is a painting by the French Neoclassical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Originally a student work painted in 1808, it was enlarged and completed in 1827. The painting depicts Oedipus explaining the riddle of the Sphinx. An oil painting on canvas, it measures 189 x 144 cm, and is in the Louvre, which acquired it in 1878.
Portrait of Madame Ingres is a late period oil on canvas painting by the French Neoclassical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, completed in 1859. Depicting his second wife Delphine Ramel, it is Ingres' final painted portrait, apart from two self-portraits. It was probably painted to accompany Ingres's self-portrait of the same year, now in the Fogg Art Museum, Boston.
In 1635, Peter Paul Rubens created Venus and Adonis, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. He followed the mythological story in the Metamorphoses by Ovid, inspired from his love of classical literature and earlier depictions of this scene. This oil on canvas painting shows Venus accompanied by Cupid, embracing and pulling Adonis before he goes off to hunt. The artist uses specific colors, detail and strong contrast between light and dark to depict a dramatic and emotional scene. At the time Rubens created the painting, the mythological story of Venus and Adonis was popular in Renaissance and Baroque court art. Rubens was clearly inspired by the many existing depictions of this scene, in particular the famous Titian composition of the same name, of which there are numerous versions. This depicts the same moment of Adonis leaving Venus to hunt, despite her pleas to stay. He is killed later in the day.
The Source is a mid 19th-century painting by French artist Gustav Courbet. Done in oil on canvas, the painting depicts a nude women in a stream. Courbet's work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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