Figure and form have been explored throughout humanity, whether it be through symbolic meaning or by exploring ‘beauty’. It is interesting to see how the figures alter through the years and regions.
5. Venus of Kostenki (Moravia), Mammoth Ivory, Palaeolithic (Gravettian). 6. Venus of Vestonice (Moravia). Loess and powdered bone. Palaeolithic (Gravettian)
Venus of Sireuil (Dordogne). Calcite. Palaeolithic (Gravettian). Musee des Antiquites Nationales, St-Germain-en-Laye
Venus of Willendorf (Austria). Limestone. Paleaolithic (end of Gravettian). Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna.
These figures are very shapely; curvaceous; volumptuous and rounded. They are steeped in meaning and symbolism which, for me, makes them for more beautiful!
Female Figure, painted on stone, Sefar, Tassili N’Ajjer, Sahara. Neolithic, about 3000 BC. P15.
Magic Figurine. Terrocotta. Prehistoric. Brooklyn Museum, New York, P21.
Neolithic Art and Egyptian Art
Left – The shape is very basic and almost looks printed, even though it has been painted to be very shapely and have big thighs.
Right – This figure is pear-shaped, with angular curves. It is not as rounded as the previous examples and is far more stylised.
Praxiteles (1st half of 4th century BC): Hermes (or copy?). Paros marble. About 350-330 BC. Olympia Museum. P.34
Aphrodite from Syracuse. Roman Marble copy after original of about 150 BC. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Syracuse, Italy. P35.
First of all, I FOUND A MAN’S BUM! (they are weirdly hard to find)
They are both very smooth, almost appearing real as if they are actual people. These examples feel more realistic because they have been worked into so much in order to get the ‘perfection’ that was desired.
Dancing Bacchante. Wall painting from the Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii. Late 1st century BC. P42.
The Rokeby Venus. About 1650. National Gallery, London. P.192.
Roman and Spanish Art
Left – I quite like the rough textures in this one, which has no relevance to the bum, but i feel it adds to the realism of the piece. The figure is quite square-hipped and nips in at the waist.
Right – This way of lying down is very flattering as it accentuates the curve of the hip which you can see from how the spine bends round. This gives her a very curvy shape.
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947): Nude in front of the Fireplace. 1917. Musee de l’Annonciade. St-Tropez. P260
Prierre Bonnard (1867-1947): La Toilette. About 1922. Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris. P260
Both of these images are painted from ordinary life settings. They look natural and not set up or ‘posed’. This is great because you get to see the bums as they are normally, not forced to look more curved and full.
Fritz Wotruba (b.1907): Standing Figure. Breccia. 1953-5. Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris. P299.
This form is an abstract of the human figure; a much simplified version that rethinks the ‘figure’ and transforms it into something unconventionally beautiful.
Henry Moore (b.1898): Reclining Figure. Study for sculpture in wood. 1940. Private Collection. p300
Henry Moore (b.1898): Reclining Figure. Bronze. 1951. Private Collection. p300
Henry Moore (b.1898): Reclining Figure. Marble. 1957-8. UNESCO Building, Paris. p300
Barbara Hepworth (1903-75): Two Figures (Menhirs).Teakwood. 1954-5. Formerly collection of the artist. p300
I have always been a fan of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth (i think you have to be if you come from Yorkshire), the way they both turn figures into unconventional abstract forms is unique. Sometimes they still look like the human body, being obvious what has inspired the work, whereas other times they are so strange and disjointed from their inspiration that you aren’t quite sure where it has come from. Until, you see the prefiguring chain of sketches and drawings, which showcases the whole journey undertaken, up to the final outcome.
All images from this post were sourced from –
(1979). A Picture History of Art. Oxford: Phaidon Press Limited.