Since the Renaissance, the human figure has been fundamental to traditional art training. This installation presents a group of works from the collection from the 19th and 20th centuries representing these well-established conventions. Figure painting remains strong today, and contemporary artists continue to explore a subject with deep historical roots (Kehinde Wiley’s portraits are notable examples). Figure painting and drawing remains an important part of the curriculum in contemporary art schools. The American artists on view all studied in American or European art academies.
Julius Rolshoven, Madame Koch and Her Children, 1898. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Ellen and Howard C. Katz in honor of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary.
By the late 19th century, artists born in the United States had opportunities for professional training in this country, but not surprisingly they preferred the ateliers of Paris. Students who flocked to the French capital immersed themselves in a competitive atmosphere of intense study, bracing critique, and provocative exhibitions. Because admission to the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris was difficult, many École teachers established private schools offering a more flexible curriculum and schedules. Close study of both the nude and clothed figure in a range of poses taught students exceptional technical skills in carefully rendering detail, and depicting highlights and shadows. Their goal was to produce large, handsome multi-figured canvases that would gain for them acceptance in the annual state-sponsored salons, immense exhibitions that drew large crowds.
The Figure in Context: An Academic Tradition is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. It is made possible through the generosity of donors to the Museum’s annual fund.
Philip Pearlstein, Two Nudes, Bamboo and Linoleum (detail), 1984. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Joel and Carole Bernstein Family Collection.
On view for a limited time, exhibitions present art from across the centuries and the globe, from iconic fashion to Old Master paintings, contemporary photography to historical objects of Asia.MORE
Discover the biographies, histories, and works of featured artists in the Phoenix Art Museum Collection.MORE