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Tracing Artistic Expressions of the Human Body

Tracing Artistic Expressions of the Human Body


Before the portrayal of the human body can be critiqued, you must understand the artist's culture. As man evolved over centuries, his views of the body also transformed. Our tour definitely showed the drastic changes in different cultures' art. Each culture and era presents very distinct characteristics. Through time and experimentation, we have expressed our views of the human body clearly with our art.



Egyptians were the first people to make a large impact on the world of art. Egyptians needed art for their religious beliefs more than decoration or self-gratification. The most important aspect of Egyptian life is the ka, the part of the human spirit that lives on after death. The ka needed a physical place to occupy or it would disappear. Most of the important men of Egypt paid to have their body carved out of stone. That was were the spirit would live after the man dies. They used stone because it was the strongest material they could find. Longevity was very important. The bodies are always idealized and clothed. Figures are very rigid, close-fisted, and are built on a vertical axis to show that the person is grand or intimidating. Most of the figures were seen in the same: profile of the legs, frontal view of the torso, and profile of the head. Like most civilizations, Egyptians put a lot of faith in gods. The sky god Horus, a bird, is found in a great amount of Egyptian art. Little recognition was ever given to the artists. The emphasis was on the patron.



Early Greek art was greatly influenced by the Egyptians. Geography permitted both cultures to exchange their talents. The beginning of Greek art is marked by the Geometric phase. The most common art during the Geometric phase was vase painting. After the vase was formed but before it was painted, the artist applied a slip (dark pigment) to outside. Then the vase was fired and the artist would incise his decorations into the hard shell. It was important to incise humans into the fired slip and not paint with slip. The people in the pictures needed light colored skin, which was the color beneath the slip, because Greeks wanted to make their art as realistic as possible. Much like Egyptian art, the Greeks idealized the bodies of the people in their works.



As the Archaic Period evolved, Greek...

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Category:   Art History

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