DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2014/07/06

End-On: Extreme Foreshortening – Part 2

Filed under: Drawing,New work,Older work — Tags: , , , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 00:25
Rotation, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Rotation, 2006, by Fred Hatt

One of my all-time most popular Drawing Life posts is “End-On: Extreme Foreshortening“, from 2010, which featured my sketches of models in mostly reclining poses, seen at angles from near head or foot, a view which radically alters the perceived contours and juxtapositions of parts of the body. Many life drawing practitioners find extreme foreshortening very challenging, but if you can learn to analyze what’s in your visual field for this kind of drawing, everything else will be relatively easy. The original post has lots of observations that you may find helpful if you’re trying to learn how to see the figure in perspective. Here is a new set of drawings, all done directly from life without the use of photographs or any optical aids (with the exception of “Linear Man” later in this post, which was drawn while experimenting with a camera lucida).

Laced Fingers, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Laced Fingers, 2014, by Fred Hatt

The body in perspective can be looked at like a landscape, with rises and hollows receding from immediately in front of you to a distant horizon. To render this landscape, let your drawing hand roam over it, feeling the heart quicken as you scale each mound, trying not to lose your footing as you skitter downhill. At the same time, keep the eyes fixed like a surveyor’s transit, noting how each prominence aligns with each other prominence in the conical geometry of the seen scene.

Boulder, 2004, by Fred Hatt

Boulder, 2004, by Fred Hatt

The head-end view of the body is close to what we see if we look down at ourselves, and can express a kind of subjective sense of the body as the physical situation of the mind.

Absence, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Absence, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Organic forms are composed of three-dimensional curves, swellings and veerings in space. End-on views of parts of the body give a powerful experience of the swooping flow of such forms. I think of these forms as motions that happen in time. Organic shapes are not defined and constructed, they grow. To grow is to unfold. Unfolding is a motion in time, and every unfolding has its particular arc or waveform.

If we look at the leg, for instance, in a standard standing anatomical position, we see this time-based phenomenon translated into space, like a “timeline of history” chart. This growth that has taken place over time is manifest in the present moment as a particular shape in space. To experience it energetically, we need to translate space back into time. When we see the leg end-on, we can observe this spatial form in cascading cross-sections, experiencing the development of the form as it evolves from moment to moment, in flowing motion.

Hypotenuse, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Hypotenuse, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Hillocks and hollows, nipples and dimples, curves and straightaways, compose the Corpus Humanum.

Headward, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Headward, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Dive, and surface. Scale the Alps/Rockies/Andes/Himalayas. Plumb the Marianas Trench.

Resting Power 2, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Resting Power 2, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Resting Power 1, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Resting Power 1, 2013, by Fred Hatt

In the foreshortened world, the knee is a projection of the face, the thighs radiate from the shoulder, and the breast echoes the foot, as shapes related in space, and as parts of the body that contain pulsing hearts.

Angularities, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Angularities, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Slap the feet, gather the pelvis, stoke the gut, radiate the heart, open the throat, illuminate the dome.

Youth, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Youth, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Moving up the body from the feet is moving through a springy helix that curls around the ball and arch of the foot and swells out and eddies inward, the lines crossing and crossing again, a mighty and euphonious chord made of living matter.

Foot Root, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Foot Root, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The vessels of blood and the nerves of impulse are the highways and subways of the body. In observing the body, I try to simplify all that traffic, to intuit from it the arteries of spirit and the veins of mortality.

Meridians, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Meridians, 2008, by Fred Hatt

The centerline of the body is the trunk line. The limbs are byways, regional roads to the dirt farms and bordellos of the outer empire. Peripheral, yet vital. The way the limbs move in relation to the trunk defines the character of the living body.

Naga Sadhu, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Naga Sadhu, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Oxygen . Carbon . Hydrogen . Nitrogen . Calcium . Phosphorus . Potassium . Sulfur . Sodium . Chlorine . Magnesium .

Linear Man, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Linear Man, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The spark of life vivifies the carcass. The animal enjoys and suffers the experience of the world. By this experience it is honed and culled, and its wisdom is reproduced.

Check Mark, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Check Mark, 2014, by Fred Hatt

The form of the body is sacred geometry, but unlike abstract geometry, it is not best rendered with straightedge and compass. It is better apprehended through intuitive senses: rhythm and flow.

Rectangles, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Rectangles, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Moving down through the body from the head end, one passes through the dome of the cranium, the barrel of the chest, and the vectors of the jointed limbs.

Points of Contact, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Points of Contact, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Here’s a foreshortened pose that is not a reclining pose. This is a view of the standing figure from beneath, as observed, upside-down, in a mirror placed on the floor.

Cat's Eye View, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Cat’s Eye View, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Below, a magnetic vortex of foreshortened figures. The void attracts you. Go deep. There are three spatial dimensions, plus time, which is light.

Vanishing Point, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Vanishing Point, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Besides “End-On Part 1“, other posts that include my drawings of the foreshortened body include “A Torso Even More So“, “Reclinging, Not Boring“, and “The Body Contemplated“.

Most of the drawings pictured here are drawn with aquarelle crayons on paper, in the size range of 18″ x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). “Vanishing Point” and “Check Mark” are 38″ x 50″ (97 x 127 cm).  “Rotation” is 36″ x 36″ (91 x 91 cm), and “Linear Man” is 9″ x 12″ (23 x 30 cm). All are drawn directly from life without the use of photographs.

 

2014/04/29

In Memoriam

Prophet, 2002, by Fred Hatt

Prophet, 2002, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel Meyer (1944-2013)  was an intense and deeply eccentric man and an artist’s model who inspired me with his spiritual presence. As he posed, he prayed or chanted silently, his eyes fixed and his mouth moving ever so slightly. He embodied the human – mortal, frail, vulnerable – reaching out towards divinity. The quality of yearning was so powerful it could not help but manifest in drawings of the man.

Prophet study, 2002, by Fred Hatt

Prophet study, 2002, by Fred Hatt

I didn’t know him well. He was selective about who he would open up to. With me, he always spoke about great literature, refined music, serious cinema. In his last years he was involved in a deep reading of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, comparing English and German translations with the French original. Earlier obsessions included William Faulkner and Gertrude Stein.

Spring Studio, Minerva Durham’s beehive of seven-days-a-week open life drawing sessions in New York, where Yizroel modeled frequently over a period of twelve years, is hosting a memorial exhibition, with thirty-three artists’ depictions of this unique soul. The remainder of this post is Minerva Durham’s remembrance of Yizroel. Details on how to visit the exhibition are included at the end.

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Minerva Durham writes:

“A secret compulsion to touch strangers, sometimes realized silently, sometimes caught out, came perhaps from his having been born in December, 1944, in Heidelberg as the Allies advanced into Germany. He soon became an orphan. He could not have easily thrived, as is the duty of every infant, without parents and with little food.

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Young Hans Meyer, original photographer unknown, photo of old photo by Kyunghee Kim

Young Hans Meyer, original photographer unknown, photo of old photo by Kyunghee Kim

“He was perhaps brought up by a perhaps Christian grandfather who had perhaps killed a relative with an axe years earlier. He was certainly bullied by more robust boys during his youth. A photo of him as a child shows his delicacy and intelligence and sensitivity.
Yisroel quick poses, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel quick poses, 2010, by Fred Hatt

“As a young man he came to the United States  to work in a publishing house. Years of heavy drinking and smoking ended suddenly when a friend took him to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. He converted to Orthodox Judaism and lived in an Orthodox community in Brooklyn, wearing the curls, hats and costumes of the community that he had adopted. But he was homosexual and he couldn’t really be himself there, and the clothes alone could not make him fit in. He slowly distanced himself from that community, but he still prayed as a Jew until he died.

Nigun, 2003, by Fred Hatt

Nigun, 2003, by Fred Hatt

“When he found nakedness working as a figure model he was at last content. How poignant that this man, born Hans Meyer in war-torn Germany, having been born again as an Orthodox Jew, could only become whole by stripping down and peeling away to the state of his original existence, unclothed and vulnerable. And no wonder that artist Jean Marcellino always felt happy when she saw that the model for the long pose was Yizroel.
Standing torso, 2004, by Fred Hatt

Standing torso, 2004, by Fred Hatt

“His last illness was brief. A year of liver cancer ending in pancreatic cancer and three strokes, each increasing in strength. His friend of many years, George Bixby, saw that Yizroel was taken care of in and out of hospital. Yizroel Meyer was given a proper Jewish burial by the Brooklyn Orthodox community shortly after his death on December 17 last year.
Bicameral, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Bicameral, 2006, by Fred Hatt

“Yizroel’s poses, as drawn by thirty-three artists, can be seen at Spring Studio at 64 Spring Street through May 11, 2014. The fifty drawings now on display show the intensity of his spirituality. Artist Pat Tobin called him, “my Saint Francis.” You may see the drawings on display Monday through Friday from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm or by appointment with Minerva Durham, Director of Spring Studio, 917-375-6086.
Temps Perdu, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Temps Perdu, 2010, by Fred Hatt

“Artists included in the exhibition are: Akiva AKA Ken Sandberg, Anonymous, Robert Bassal, Lynn Cooper, Robert Dunn, Minerva Durham, Janet Fish, Robert Forte, Audrey Cohn-Ganz, Lyle Gertz, Dan Gheno, Dinah Glasier, George Grammar, Kevin Hall, Susan Haskins, Fred Hatt, Jerilyn Jurinek, Karen Kaapcke, Robin Kappy, Gary Katz, Kimchee Kim, Kyunghee Kim, Mark LaMantia, Berryl Mallory, Jean Marcellino, Rebecca Odin, Denise Ozker, Eleni Papageorge, Alan Schlussel, Pearl Shifer, Jonathan Soard, Diane Van Court, and Bruce Williams.”

2014/01/26

Élan Vital

Filed under: Drawing,New work — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 16:39
Windmill, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Windmill, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I’ve named this collection of my recent figure drawing work “Élan Vital” after philosopher Henri Bergson‘s concept of a dynamic impulse manifesting in evolution and creativity.

Resting Torque, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Resting Torque, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Figure drawing is the ongoing practice or discipline through which I strive to perceive the world and my fellow beings not as objects, but as patterns of flowing energy. Science, philosophy, and contemplative intuition can lead one to understand the world in this way, but only an active practice can train the senses to experience it directly.

Shepherd's Crook, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Shepherd’s Crook, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Usually we look at things or people, identify them, and then simply relate to them as objects of utility, threat, pleasure, or whatever role they play in the drama or game of which our ego is the protagonist. To look at things as an artist looks is a kind of meditation, a work of detachment. There can be a lovely pleasure in the activity, and there is surely a goal – the desire to capture something wonderful in a sketch drives our efforts. The intention is focused on the drawing, while the attention is focused on the model.

Sinuous Form, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Sinuous Form, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The eyes naturally move in “saccades“, hopping like a flea from one point of attention to the next. As I study the model’s body, I try to feel these jumps as flowing movements, to imagine that the eye follows the curves I see with a degree of fluid friction, like the oiled hands of a masseur gliding over the rises and hollows of the body. Of course my eyes don’t really move in such a continuous way, but the brush or pencil in my drawing hand does.

Memorious, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Memories, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The light touches and flows over the body of our model and then arrives through our eyes to tell us what it has learned. Light is ever swifter and more responsive than my fingers, but my practice aims at the impossible – to emulate light with my hands.

Clasp, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Clasp, 2013, by Fred Hatt

A fancy word for drawing is “to limn”. It means to delineate, to describe. The dictionary tells me this word is derived from the medieval word “lymnour”, an illuminator (illustrator) of manuscripts, from the latin “illuminare”, to give light. I had always assumed it was related to the word “liminal”, meaning “on the threshold”, which can refer to sensory thresholds or transitional states, but apparently that word derives from a different Latin root, “limen”. In any case, a contour is a perceived edge or threshold, between foreground and background or between light and dark, so to draw the figure is to illuminate by limning with lines the liminal zones of luminosity of the limbs. “Limb”, by the way, comes from the Latin “limbus”, meaning border or edge, and “line” comes from “linea”, a string or thread (as in linen). Maybe all of these words are related at a deeper or more ancient level of language.

Inward, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Inward, 2013, by Fred Hatt

We use a line to describe a shape, but because a line or mark is produced by movement, it also suggests dynamic energy.

Two Hands, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Two Hands, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Line can suggest the directional flow of light, the impulses of the nerves, the pulsing of blood, and the thrust of muscles.

Sidebridge, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Sidebridge, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Line can show connections or divisions, structure or directionality.

Light and Dark Lines, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Light and Dark Lines, 2013, by Fred Hatt

In drawing with regularity, it is a challenge to keep it fresh. As in any kind of practice, we’re essentially doing the same kind of thing over and over again. Art is like a sword with many edges. If we use the same edge all the time it will end up going dull.

Behind the Door, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Behind the Door, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I try to keep looking in different ways, focusing on different aspects of my subject, always trying to find something special about each pose.

Body and Face, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Body and Face, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I change media, sometimes using a brush, sometimes a pencil, sometimes crayons. Each tool has its own particular characteristics for me to internalize.

Boatman, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Boatman, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Sometimes I use the edge of the crayon and sometimes the point.

Painter, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Painter, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Sometimes I look at light and shadow, sometimes at contour, sometimes at mass and solidity, sometimes at motion or implied motion.

Dancer, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Dancer, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Sometimes I look at the way the parts of the body emanate from the center. Sometimes I look at how the body relates to the environment it occupies.

Irishman, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Irishman, 2014, by Fred Hatt

The subtle qualities, emotion, soul and the like, emerge from the energetic pursuit of more physical aspects of things.

Turn and Push, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Turn and Push, 2014, by Fred Hatt

The materialist view of science holds that life and consciousness are emergent properties of matter and energy, arising from the complexity of relationships among simpler things. But does matter give rise to mind, or could it be vice versa? It seems to me that even the most elementary interactions of particles entail an element of communication. Perhaps mind and matter are just two sides of a single coin.

Reflection, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Reflection, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Without matter to perceive, could mind exist? Without mind to experience it, could matter exist? Disembodied mind is a fog at best, it seems to me, mindless matter a “tree falling in the forest” paradox.

Statue Poses, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Statue Poses, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I would drive myself crazy speculating about the ultimate nature of reality, but a model is posing for me and the timer is running. Knowing that the end is coming makes me throw myself into the pursuit.

Thinking Man, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Thinking Man, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The discourse around contemporary art expects the artist to say something, to make a political statement or to question or unravel or reframe some cultural thing or other. I find I don’t much care about any of that. Here I am in a world of wonders and the clock is running.

Pose Sequence, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Pose Sequence, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Beauty is a subjective thing, in the eye of the beholder, they say. To capture your experience of beauty and share it in such a way that another might experience some echo of what you have felt is a way to propagate beauty in the world.

Stride, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Stride, 2013, by Fred Hatt

For any kind of artist, there is so much beauty to see, not just in faces and bodies, but in landscapes and animals, in imagination and feelings, in rhythms and tones, in epics and parables, in bliss and terror – in all the things an artist can illuminate. The timer is running.

Two Back Views, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Two Back Views, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Thanks to the models who posed for the pictures in this post: Amy, Andrea, Angela, Bethany, Chuck, Claudia, Emma, Eryn, Joe, Kristin, Kuan, Michael R., Michael W., Pedro, Taylor, Terry, Vadim, Wardell.

Drawings are in various combinations of aquarelle crayon, gouache and watercolor, pencil, ballpoint pen, and brush marker, ranging from 14″ x 17″ (36 x 43 cm) to 38″ x 50″ (97 x 127 cm).

2014/01/17

A Show of Hands

 

Study of Hands, c. 1474, by Leonardo da Vinci

Study of Hands, c. 1474, by Leonardo da Vinci

You may hear it said that artists hate to draw hands, and I don’t think there is any part of the human body that is more challenging to draw well than the hands. Of course for that very reason artists who relish a challenge love to draw hands. In the drawing classes I supervise, I have often noted that beginning artists tend to draw hands (and feet) too small, while the most accomplished artists often draw hands disproportionately large.

Hands are complicated structures capable of an incredible range of pose and expression. The fingers are the most sensitive as well as the most dextrous part of the body – paragons of both feeling and action. To watch the fingers of a great pianist, guitarist, or violinist, to see the expression that a master actor or painter or dancer conveys through the hands and fingers, is to experience the most profound grace the human being can embody.

Let’s look at images of hands in works of painting, sculpture, cinema and photography. Throughout this post click on the photos to go to the websites where I found them, and click on the titles of works in the commentary to see full versions where I show details, or to find more information about the works pictured.

Lady with an Ermine (detail), 1490, by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo’s hand of a Lady with an Ermine almost makes you feel the sleek fur and impulsive muscularity of the animal she strokes.

Madonna del Magnificat (detail), 1481, by Sandro Botticelli

Madonna del Magnificat (detail), 1481, by Sandro Botticelli

Botticelli’s Madonna of the Magnificat invokes the holy with beatific faces and delicate hands, portraying the Virgin as scribe.

David (detail), 1504, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

David (detail), 1504, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Michelangelo’s David has enormous hands with incredible detail of veins and sinews, an image of power in repose.

Study of Hands, 1506, by AlbrechtDürer

Study of Hands, 1506, by Albrecht Dürer

The way Michelangelo carved with a chisel, Dürer carved with black and white line on toned paper.

The Fortune Teller (detail), c. 1594, by Michelangelo Caravaggio

The Fortune Teller (detail), c. 1594, by Michelangelo Caravaggio

Caravaggio’s Fortune Teller, like all of his work, is so vivid you feel the characters are alive before you. The hands are as strikingly present as the faces. Look at the palm-reader’s seductive grasp and stroke.

Hamsa amulet, artist unknown

Hamsa amulet, artist unknown

The Hamsa is a hand-shaped amulet for protection against the evil eye, commonly found in many variants throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The symbol has been around since before the era of monotheistic religions, but it survives in Judaism as the Hand of Miriam, in Christianity as the Hand of Mary, and in Islam as the Hand of Fatima. “Hamsa” means five in Arabic, and it represents five fingers, but it is usually abstracted to be symmetrical, so it appears as a hand with three fingers and two thumbs. As a symbol surviving from antiquity and remaining popular today, it shows the persistence of the idea of the hand representing spiritual power and blessing. (Indeed images of hands are among the earliest surviving human artistic representations.)

Tian Tan Buddha of Po Lin Monastery, Hong Kong, 1993, designed by  Hou Jinhui

Tian Tan Buddha of Po Lin Monastery, Hong Kong, 1993, designed by
Hou Jinhui

In Hinduism and Buddhism, symbolic hand positions called “mudras” are an important aspect of both ritual practice and the iconography of sacred art. There are hundreds of defined mudras, different lists of them for different traditions and disciplines. The gesture of the Buddha figure above is the Abhaya Mudra, the fear-dispelling gesture.

Dance mudras, date and photographer unknown

Dance mudras, date and photographer unknown

Classical Indian dance forms such as Bharata Natyam have their own collections of mudras, essentially a form of sign language for telling a story in dance. (Some dance mudras are demonstrated in the set of photos above.)

Hands of Buddha at Stupa of Dharmakaya, photo by lestermore

Hands of Buddha at Stupa of Dharmakaya, photo by lestermore

Buddha figures also have a whole set of prescribed mudras that represent things like charity, understanding, and asceticism. The right hand of the buddha above is making the sign of debate or discussion.

Mudra sculpture in New Delhi Airport (detail), designed by Ayush Kasliwal

Mudra sculpture in New Delhi Airport (detail), designed by Ayush Kasliwal

The Airport in New Delhi features a public sculpture depicting a variety of traditional mudras. The one shown above is called prana mudra by yogis. In yoga, mudras are like asanas (yoga poses) for the hands. This one is performed to promote the flow of vital energy throughout one’s body.

Christ Giving His Blessing, 1481, by Hans Memling

Christ Giving His Blessing, 1481, by Hans Memling

Mudras are not exclusive to the religions of Southern and Eastern Asia. Christ is frequently depicted giving a gesture of benediction very similar to the hand positions seen in Hindu or Buddhist figures.

Christ as Savior, c. 1614, by El Greco

Christ as Savior, c. 1614, by El Greco

One explanation of this gesture is that the three upraised fingers represent the Trinity, while the two lowered fingers represent the dual nature of Christ as man and God. (Eastern Orthodox representations of Christ feature a different hand position.)

The Creation of Adam (detail), 1512, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

The Creation of Adam (detail), 1512, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Hands are potent and adaptable symbols in sacred art. Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam shows the vigorous hand of God transmitting the life force to the weaker hand of Adam.

Isenheim Altarpiece (detail), 1516, by Matthias Grünewald

Isenheim Altarpiece (detail), 1516, by Matthias Grünewald

Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece features on one panel the tortured hands of the crucifixion, and on another the raised palms of the luminous Christ rising from the grave.

Study of the Hands of God the Father, 1508, by Albrecht Dürer

Study of the Hands of God the Father, 1508, by Albrecht Dürer

The exquisite drawing above is a preparatory sketch for the Heller Altarpiece, another great hinged triptych painting. The left hand holds the orb of the world, and the right hand crowns the Virgin.

Baton Gestures, illustration by Priscilla Barrett from "Manwatching", 1977, by Desmond Morris

Baton Gestures, illustration by Priscilla Barrett from “Manwatching”, 1977, by Desmond Morris

Let’s get a little more secular now. The illustration above is one of many great pictures in the pop anthropologist Desmond MorrisManwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior. It shows “baton signals”, gestures that “beat time to the rhythm of spoken thoughts.” Hand gestures can do as much to inflect human speech as can tone of voice.

George B. Bridgman, illustration from "The Book of a Hundred Hands", 1920

George B. Bridgman, illustration from “The Book of a Hundred Hands”, 1920

Bridgman‘s Book of a Hundred Hands is a whole collection of an artist’s acute observations about hands, presented in both words and sketches. This is the kind of book that can help one learn how to notice things.

Burne Hogarth, illustration from "Drawing Dynamic Hands", 1977

Burne Hogarth, illustration from “Drawing Dynamic Hands”, 1977

Burne Hogarth had a way of expressing the power of motion through a detailed understanding of anatomy.

Burne Hogarth, illustration from "Drawing Dynamic Hands", 1977

Burne Hogarth, illustration from “Drawing Dynamic Hands”, 1977

Hogarth may be best known for transforming the style of superhero comics. His anatomy books are among the best for artists because they depict anatomical structures not in the inert diagrams of typical textbooks, but in vigorous action.

Two Hands, 1885, by Vincent van Gogh

Two Hands, 1885, by Vincent van Gogh

The impressionist and post-impressionist artists tried to show that everyday realities, like these rough peasant hands, can be as full of wonder and beauty as anything holy or heroic.

Baby's First Caress, 1891, by Mary Cassatt

Baby’s First Caress, 1891, by Mary Cassatt

The discovery of touch between a mother and child is surely as powerful a human experience as there is. Lots of artists are good at depicting mystery or vehemence, but it takes rare sensitivity to portray such a subtle moment as Cassatt does in this picture. Look at how the child’s touch to the mother’s face is returned as she holds one of the child’s hands and one of his feet in her hands.

Self Portrait with Hands on Chest, 1910, by Egon Schiele

Self Portrait with Hands on Chest, 1910, by Egon Schiele

Schiele shows the exciting narcissism of youth in his pout, his cockscomb hair, and his dramatic fingers.

Hand with Reflecting Sphere, 1935, by M. C. Escher

Hand with Reflecting Sphere, 1935, by M. C. Escher

This Escher print perfectly distills the unity of hand, eye, and playful mathematical mind that this artist cultivated through all his work.

All Power to the People, poster, late 1960's, artist unknown

All Power to the People, Black Panthers poster, late 1960′s, artist unknown

The fist is the ultimate expression of defiance and determination.

Portrait of Aubrey Beardsley, 1894, photo by Frederick Henry Evans

Portrait of Aubrey Beardsley, 1894, photo by Frederick Henry Evans

Let’s look at some photographic explorations of hands. An artist’s essence is as much in his hands as in his face. Don’t Aubrey Beardsley‘s long, long fingers look like the only fingers that could have produced his efflorescence of flamboyance in black and white?

Georgia O'Keefe, Hands, 1918, photo by Alfred Steiglitz

Georgia O’Keefe, Hands, 1918, photo by Alfred Steiglitz

And here is Georgia O’Keefe, austere and sensuous at the same time.

Profile and Hands, 1932, photo by Man Ray

Profile and Hands, 1932, photo by Man Ray

Man Ray‘s abstracting eye glamorizes the tactile.

Nancy, Danville, Virginia, 1969, photo by Emmet Gowin

Nancy, Danville, Virginia, 1969, photo by Emmet Gowin

Emmet Gowin sees the mystery in the everyday, the family, the land.

Hands on the Beach, 1959, photo by Bill Brandt

Hands on the Beach, 1959, photo by Bill Brandt

For Bill Brandt, the body is monumental, towering.

Interlocking Fingers No. 6,  1999, photo by John Coplans

Interlocking Fingers No. 6, 1999, photo by John Coplans

John Coplans‘ sole subject is his own aging body, seen with the sharp eye a naturalist might direct on some taxonomic oddity of nature.

Still from "Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens", 1922 film directed by F. W. Murnau

Still from “Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens”, 1922 film directed by F. W. Murnau, with Max Schreck

The cinema may be the perfect art form to explore the image of the hand. Nosferatu‘s vampire has rodent teeth, a rigid posture, and the talons of a raptor.

Still from "The Hands of Orlac", 1924 film directed by Robert Wiene

Still from “The Hands of Orlac”, 1924 film directed by Robert Wiene, with Conrad Veidt

In The Hands of Orlac, a pianist receives a transplant – the hands of a murderer.

Still from "Night of the Hunter", 1955 film directed by Charles Laughton, with Robert Mitchum

Still from “Night of the Hunter”, 1955 film directed by Charles Laughton, with Robert Mitchum

In the magical realist classic Night of the Hunter, Robert Mitchum plays a homicidal preacher with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles.

I’ll conclude this post with a selection of works by Auguste Rodin, an artist who grasped all the expressive possibilities of the human hand, and explored in his work many of the themes we’ve seen in the work of other artists above.

Clenched Hand, 1885, by Auguste Rodin

Clenched Hand, 1885, by Auguste Rodin

Could a face express such anguish? Compare this hand with those in Grünewald’s crucifixion, or with Burne Hogarth’s contorted hands.

The Burghers of Calais (detail), 1889, by Auguste Rodin

The Burghers of Calais (detail: Pierre de Wissant), 1889, by Auguste Rodin

This hand and the face combine to show us the mournful resignation of a man accepting his own death. (This is a detail from the multi-figure “Burghers of Calais“. The story it tells is explained at the link.)

The Hand of God, 1896, by Auguste Rodin

The Hand of God, 1896, by Auguste Rodin

Here Rodin shows us the hand of God as the hand of an artist like himself, modeling living figures out of clay. The position of this hand is very similar to that of the figure just above it,

Cathedral, 1908, by Auguste Rodin

Cathedral, 1908, by Auguste Rodin

Both this work and the next are composed of two right hands. A left and a right hand coming together are the prayer of one. Two rights shows the encounter of two individuals. The “Cathedral” is the potent egg-like space that is created in between the hands of two people who join to dance together.

Hands of Lovers, 1904, by Auguste Rodin

Hands of Lovers, 1904, by Auguste Rodin

There is profound power in this gentle contact. These hands are not grasping, clinging, or controlling. Each hand remains a free individual, with all its senses tuned to the mystery of touching the other.

If you know anything of the story of Rodin and his muse, protegée and fellow sculptor Camille Claudel, you may doubt whether Rodin ever achieved such sensitivity in his own life. But even if he did not, for me, he manages to express it in these moving sculptures.

Below, Rodin’s assemblage of a life-cast of Claudel’s sad and delicate head with a cast of the oversized hand of a figure from the “Burghers of Calais”, four images up.

Assemblage: Mask of Camille Claudel and Left Hand of Pierre de Wissant, 1895, by Auguste Rodin

Assemblage: Mask of Camille Claudel and Left Hand of Pierre de Wissant, 1895, by Auguste Rodin

For the artist, the hand is the extension of the mind. Eyes and thoughts reach out like fingers, touching the world, exploring it, shaping it.

2013/12/20

Invitation to an Exhibition

solstice-gradientThe winter solstice is the longest night of the year. Now, in the Northern hemisphere, the days will start to get longer. To all my readers, a Blessed Solstice, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

My dear friend Claudia, the art model and Museworthy blogger, has posted the 2013 Museworthy Art Show. Claudia invited her readers to submit artwork based on their choice among four of my photographs of her. Click the link and check it out. I’m a big part of this wonderful and diverse gathering of artwork, since I took the source photos and also submitted a drawing for the show. I think this show is a brilliant idea. A blog brings together a great diversity of people around some shared interests, people scattered across the globe, people with different sensibilities and different abilities. Normally it’s all sort of vague, anonymous lurkers and commenters you know little about. Claudia’s show creatively manifests the community she’s growing.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress

Better Tag Cloud
%d bloggers like this: