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The body in art

'I wanted to conquer the world. But I also desperately wanted to understand human nature, and to know what was inside our bodies. To do this, I have spent whole night dissecting bodies, against the direct orders of the Pope. Nothing disgusts me. What I am looking for, truly, in all of my work and particularly in my painting, what I have looked for all my life, is to understand the mystery that is human nature' – from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century.

At the time of writing these notes, da Vinci had already made greater understanding of the human body the primary objective of his investigations. Dissection and study were key to his development of a holistic knowledge of anatomy, which da Vinci believed was vital to the perfect rendering of the nude figures which he painted and drew.

Little by little, the traditional image of the human figure was uprooted and in its place new ways of interpreting the body developed. Contemporary artists relentlessly questioned the traditional codes of figure drawing, liberally reworking the representation of the body to create a new image that was dislocated, geometric, deformed and disfigured.

The body as an artistic subject is at once desired, fantasised, dreamt, transformed, deformed. For painters, photographers and sculptors alike the body represents a rite of passage in their artistic development. Many people say that they most appreciate the talents of an artists by way of their control over the complexity of the figure. For example, it's clear even in Matisse's later, more abstract collages that he had perfectly mastered the human form.

Representation of the body is fundamental to Western art: first and foremost because it suggests a representation of the self, and therefore affirms the artist's own existence and coexistence with the environment that surrounds them. At the beginning of art history, the only bodies represented were the gods, supernatural beings, and spirits who had taken on human form. The body, nude or clothed, is at once one of the most widely depicted and most deeply polemical subjects in Western art (think of the scandals provoked by Courbet's 'Origins of the World', or Renoir's 'Picnic on the Grass').

The body has always been the primary subject of an array of themes, and its history is rich and ancient. Initially, depiction of the body was closely linked to religion, where the Word became flesh in Genesis, but later in more secular times the arousal of the artist when faced with the body made for an equally popular theme. Latterly the notion of the body as an object of beauty was subverted by Cubism until depictions of bodies no longer bore any resemblance to reality or made any pretence of respecting the rules of proportion.

Finally, in modern art the body has taken on an abstract shape within space, becoming one with the environment. In some instances, the body has become the artist's own support, as with Klein's models. The body as an abstract concept is tangible in many different manifestations in art, even in pieces as unassuming as some of Rothko's paintings. It remains the subject of inexhaustible inspiration and eternal debate.

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Miguel Guía, Essence Féminine bronze, Sculpture

Miguel Guía

Essence Féminine bronze, 2017
26 x 15 x 7.1 inch


Our recommendations Linde Ergo, Dreamer, Sculpture

Linde Ergo

Dreamer, 2014
6.3 x 5.9 x 7.9 inch


Our recommendations Isabella Kretzdorn, Femme nue allongée, Drawing

Isabella Kretzdorn

Femme nue allongée, 2009
18.1 x 25.2 x 0.8 inch


Stéphane Gizard, Tristan - Modern Lovers, Photography

Stéphane Gizard

Tristan - Modern Lovers, 2013
27.6 x 39.4 inch


Robert Osborne, Fuck The Patriarchy (with Carrie Reichardt), Print

Robert Osborne

Fuck The Patriarchy (with Carrie Reichardt), 2017
9.1 x 7.5 x 0.4 inch


Jean Laniau, Alixia, Sculpture

Jean Laniau

Alixia, 2015
24 x 19.7 x 15.7 inch


Oriol Texidor, Immersió 204, Drawing

Oriol Texidor

Immersió 204, 2017
16.5 x 11.8 x 1.6 inch


Our recommendations Daiane Soares, Statue de bronze, Photography

Daiane Soares

Statue de bronze, 2012
39.4 x 27.6 inch


Maguy Banq, Monologue, Sculpture

Maguy Banq

Monologue, 2015
7.1 x 3.9 x 4.3 inch


Jean-Marie Marion, Profil sur table, Photography

Jean-Marie Marion

Profil sur table, 2011
15.7 x 23.6 inch


Our recommendations Stefan Hoareau, Série Lignes Blanches, A, Photography

Stefan Hoareau

Série Lignes Blanches, A, 2008
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.4 inch


Our recommendations Wyart & Solomon, Anatomia, Print

Wyart & Solomon

Anatomia, 2016
15 x 11 inch


Our recommendations Mireille Arbellot, D'un corps l'autre - L'ouverture, Painting

Mireille Arbellot

D'un corps l'autre - L'ouverture, 2015
57.5 x 38.2 x 1.2 inch


Rita Martorell, Forget it, Print

Rita Martorell

Forget it, 2010
63 x 45.3 x 1.6 inch


Pierre Collin, Nus rouges - Picasso Grand Palais , Print

Pierre Collin

Nus rouges - Picasso Grand Palais , 2012
35.4 x 24.8 x 0.4 inch


Lucien Adami, Michaelis, Drawing

Lucien Adami

Michaelis, 2015
19.7 x 25.6 x 1.2 inch


Christophe Charbonnel, Esclave II, Sculpture

Christophe Charbonnel

Esclave II, 2002
38 x 54 x 24 inch


Bert Stern, Kate Moss Nude, Photography

Bert Stern

Kate Moss Nude, 2012
19.3 x 13 x 0.4 inch


Linde Ergo, Stillness, Sculpture

Linde Ergo

Stillness, 2016
15.7 x 13.8 x 11.8 inch


Linde Ergo, Sérénité, Sculpture

Linde Ergo

Sérénité, 2017
33.5 x 7.5 x 11.8 inch


Boom Art, Vintage surfboard Petites Luxures / lovana, Print

Boom Art

Vintage surfboard Petites Luxures / lovana, 2017
47.2 x 11.8 x 0.4 inch


Our recommendations Martín Duque, Nu Homme Grand, Sculpture

Martín Duque

Nu Homme Grand, 2002
11.8 x 10.6 x 15.7 inch


Martín Duque, Femme Nu Grand II, Sculpture

Martín Duque

Femme Nu Grand II, 2002
13.8 x 20.1 x 8.7 inch


Our recommendations Arman, Mi-Siren, Sculpture


Mi-Siren, 1996
9.8 x 10.2 x 6.7 inch


Bernard Pras, Inventaire 78 - Nu Bonbon, Photography

Bernard Pras

Inventaire 78 - Nu Bonbon, 2009
63 x 47.2 inch


Luo Li Rong, Ligne de ton dos, Sculpture

Luo Li Rong

Ligne de ton dos, 2016
6.3 x 13.4 x 5.1 inch


Dani Olivier, Ame de fer, Photography

Dani Olivier

Ame de fer, 2013
23.6 x 15.7 x 0.4 inch


Our recommendations Corneille, Elle se donne a l'été, Print


Elle se donne a l'été, 1980
27 x 21 inch


Irene Cruz, Drowning in Blue XI, Photography

Irene Cruz

Drowning in Blue XI, 2018
15.7 x 23.6 x 0.4 inch

$1,085 $1,206

Our recommendations Takala, Les demi-pointes - Série Les Caprices de Madame Bovary, Photography


Les demi-pointes - Série Les Caprices de Madame Bovary, 2013
21.7 x 21.7 x 1.6 inch


Cécile Baldewyns, Sans tain, Photography

Cécile Baldewyns

Sans tain, 2017
27.6 x 19.7 inch


Baptiste Léonne, Diva #17, Photography

Baptiste Léonne

Diva #17, 2016
31.5 x 23.6 x 1.2 inch


Johannes Nielsen, Nature, Sculpture

Johannes Nielsen

Nature, 2017
32.3 x 5.1 x 5.1 inch


Jacques Vanroose, Desire, Sculpture

Jacques Vanroose

Desire, 2017
64.6 x 16.1 x 14.2 inch


Our recommendations Isabella Kretzdorn, Femme nue aux bas noirs, Drawing

Isabella Kretzdorn

Femme nue aux bas noirs, 2009
25.2 x 18.1 x 0.8 inch


Jessie Lie, Sak Yan, Photography

Jessie Lie

Sak Yan, 2017
23.6 x 35.4 x 0.1 inch


Melinda Matyas, Stopping by woods on a snowy evening, Painting

Melinda Matyas

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening, 2015
31.5 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch


Charlotte Barrault, Fanny, Painting

Charlotte Barrault

Fanny, 2016
39.4 x 31.9 x 1.6 inch


Olivier Valsecchi, Dust #12, Photography

Olivier Valsecchi

Dust #12, 2009
27.6 x 27.6 x 0.4 inch


Jessie Lie, Back, Photography

Jessie Lie

Back, 2017
23.6 x 35.4 x 0.1 inch


Michael Bastow, Nu Féminin / Female Nude, Print

Michael Bastow

Nu Féminin / Female Nude, 1991
25.6 x 36.2 inch


Marie-Agnès Périgault, Corps amoureux 3, Photography

Marie-Agnès Périgault

Corps amoureux 3, 2013
35.4 x 23.6 x 1.2 inch


Jacques Bosser, Kokomo, Photography

Jacques Bosser

Kokomo, 2004
39.4 x 39.4 x 2.8 inch


Houda Kabbaj, Sans titre - Serie Diluted Shade (HK-SD7B), Photography

Houda Kabbaj

Sans titre - Serie Diluted Shade (HK-SD7B), 2014
23.6 x 19.7 inch


James Wigger, El Anhelo Eterno de las Rosas, Photography

James Wigger

El Anhelo Eterno de las Rosas, 2010
15.7 x 12.6 inch


Annabelle Boyer, Nu masculin de profil, Photography

Annabelle Boyer

Nu masculin de profil, 2012
15.7 x 15.7 x 0.4 inch


Pascale Lander, Flo (Corps et Canevas), Photography

Pascale Lander

Flo (Corps et Canevas), 2014
27.6 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch


Éliane Bonabel, Nu Feminin 1 / Female Nude 1, Drawing

Éliane Bonabel

Nu Feminin 1 / Female Nude 1, 1938
25.6 x 19.7 inch


Our recommendations Julien Spiewak, Lit de style Louis XV, Marie, Photography

Julien Spiewak

Lit de style Louis XV, Marie, 2005
17.7 x 22 x 1.2 inch


Rakip Shabani, Beauty that Kills, Painting

Rakip Shabani

Beauty that Kills, 2017
31.5 x 35.4 inch


Our recommendations Cécile Pujol, Levez-vous, Painting

Cécile Pujol

Levez-vous, 2017
57.5 x 36.6 x 2 inch


Elisabeth Hadley, Slipstream, Sculpture

Elisabeth Hadley

Slipstream, 2014
13 x 8.7 x 5.5 inch


Kirsteen Titchener, Vanity, Photography

Kirsteen Titchener

Vanity, 2018
24 x 18.1 inch


Kirsteen Titchener, Honeysuckle, Photography

Kirsteen Titchener

Honeysuckle, 2019
24 x 18.1 inch


Barbara Cevasco, Vacio, Sculpture

Barbara Cevasco

Vacio, 2012
9.1 x 4.3 x 4.7 inch


Louis Treserras, La belle Elise, Painting

Louis Treserras

La belle Elise, 2016
31.5 x 31.5 x 2 inch


Silke Seybold, Suitcase, Photography

Silke Seybold

Suitcase, 2013
19.7 x 19.7 inch


John MacConnell, Greg #1, Drawing

John MacConnell

Greg #1, 2016
11.8 x 9.1 inch


Christophe Charbonnel, Persée tenant la tête de Méduse, Sculpture

Christophe Charbonnel

Persée tenant la tête de Méduse, 2016
52.4 x 18.5 x 12.6 inch

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Our recommendations Egon Schiele, Portrait de Gerti / Portrait of Gerti Schiele (Gerti Schiele in a Plaid Garment) - 1909, Print

Egon Schiele

Portrait de Gerti / Portrait of Gerti Schiele (Gerti Schiele in a Plaid Garment) - 1909, 2013
35.4 x 17.7 inch

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