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Human body

'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.

Collector’s Guide: Collecting Fine Art Photographs

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Ricky Cohete, Miguel, Photography

Ricky Cohete

Miguel, 2021
36 x 24 x 0.1 inch


Our recommendations Robert Mapplethorpe, Bill T. Jones, Photography

Robert Mapplethorpe

Bill T. Jones, 1985
19.75 x 15.75 x 0.1 inch


Our recommendations Chema Madoz, Untitled, Photography

Chema Madoz

Untitled, 1985
23.6 x 19.7 inch


Our recommendations Claude Mollard, L'Homme naturel de JJ Rousseau, Ermenonville, Photography

Claude Mollard

L'Homme naturel de JJ Rousseau, Ermenonville, 2007
19.7 x 13.4 inch


Warwick Saint, Neck Tattoo, Photography

Warwick Saint

Neck Tattoo, 2010
31 x 25 inch


Oriol Texidor, Manufactura 3, Photography

Oriol Texidor

Manufactura 3, 2008
15.7 x 19.7 x 2.8 inch


Monica Denevan, Anchor, Photography

Monica Denevan

Anchor, 2013
15.7 x 19.7 inch


Martin Munkacsi, Untitled (Church Spire, Seville), Photography

Martin Munkacsi

Untitled (Church Spire, Seville), 1930
14.88 x 11.75 inch


Our recommendations Bob Willoughby, Elizabeth Taylor in red bathing suit during filming on 'Raintree County', 1956, Photography

Bob Willoughby

Elizabeth Taylor in red bathing suit during filming on 'Raintree County', 1956, 1956
12 x 9.5 inch


Jean-François Talivez, Power struggle, Photography

Jean-François Talivez

Power struggle, 1992
23.6 x 15.7 inch


Virginie Soubeiroux, Homeostasis, Photography

Virginie Soubeiroux

Homeostasis, 2017
70.9 x 39.4 inch


Chiara Dazi, Le lutteur, Photography

Chiara Dazi

Le lutteur, 2003
23.6 x 23.6 inch


Espen Rasmussen, Pain, Photography

Espen Rasmussen

Pain, 2012
15.7 x 23.6 inch


Lídia Vives, Call Me, Photography

Lídia Vives

Call Me, 2015
9.4 x 14.2 inch


J.Léo, The Pool, Photography


The Pool, 2018
23.6 x 23.6 inch


Our recommendations Claude Lévêque, Oriflamme, Photography

Claude Lévêque

Oriflamme, 2019
11.8 x 11.8 x 0.4 inch


Our recommendations Sarah Maple, Fighting Fire with Fire, Photography

Sarah Maple

Fighting Fire with Fire, 2013
24 x 19.3 inch


Our recommendations Gabriel Orozco, Batwaves, Photography

Gabriel Orozco

Batwaves, 2012
8 x 6 inch


Our recommendations Cat Soubbotnik, Longueur d'ondes, Photography

Cat Soubbotnik

Longueur d'ondes, 2012
66.1 x 63 x 1.2 inch


Kirsten Thys van den Audenaerde, 'Cradle' part of the series 'Hands down', Photography

Kirsten Thys van den Audenaerde

'Cradle' part of the series 'Hands down', 2019
7.9 x 7.9 x 0 inch


Sophie Derrick, Close to nothing (Pink), Photography

Sophie Derrick

Close to nothing (Pink), 2015
16.5 x 11.8 x 3.1 inch


Our recommendations Marie-Anne et Thierry Camail, Jeune fille Maasai face, Photography

Marie-Anne et Thierry Camail

Jeune fille Maasai face, 2010
48.8 x 32.7 x 0.4 inch


Our recommendations Bertrand Noël, Pictures for women, LL, Photography

Bertrand Noël

Pictures for women, LL, 2012
23.6 x 35.4 inch


Our recommendations Marilyn  Minter, Prism, Photography

Marilyn Minter

Prism, 2009
20.1 x 15.7 x 2 inch


Tehos, Listening, Photography


Listening, 2017
23.6 x 31.5 x 0 inch


Our recommendations Mikael Siirilä, Untitled (Girl with two stripes), Photography

Mikael Siirilä

Untitled (Girl with two stripes), 2020
8.7 x 5.9 inch


Our recommendations Clare Marie Bailey, White Light, Photography

Clare Marie Bailey

White Light, 2018
7.9 x 7.9 x 0.4 inch


Our recommendations Florence Douyrou, Conversation I - Chien, Photography

Florence Douyrou

Conversation I - Chien, 2015
17.7 x 17.7 x 1.2 inch


Our recommendations Pierre Barbrel, XIX - Le Soleil, Photography

Pierre Barbrel

XIX - Le Soleil, 2015
23.6 x 23.6 x 1.6 inch


Franck Follet, Naked Beauty 22, Photography

Franck Follet

Naked Beauty 22, 2015
35.4 x 23.6 x 0.1 inch


Our recommendations Hugo Andrade, La vieille femme, Photography

Hugo Andrade

La vieille femme, 2015
29.5 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch


Serge Guerand, Mind Journey | Palermo, Photography

Serge Guerand

Mind Journey | Palermo, 2014
20.9 x 31.5 inch


Virginia Rota, Saudade 10, Photography

Virginia Rota

Saudade 10, 2016
29.5 x 19.7 x 0.4 inch


Karine Payette, Entre nous I, Photography

Karine Payette

Entre nous I, 2016
24 x 36 inch


Gérard Rancinan, Shanghai Gym, Photography

Gérard Rancinan

Shanghai Gym, 2008
40.6 x 40.6 inch


Tim Hall, Dune XIV, Photography

Tim Hall

Dune XIV, 2004
15 x 15 x 1.6 inch


Elodie et Nicolas, Jaquemus (1), Photography

Elodie et Nicolas

Jaquemus (1), 2018
17.7 x 11.8 inch


Sergey Melnitchenko, Behind the scenes 49, Photography

Sergey Melnitchenko

Behind the scenes 49, 2016
15.7 x 23.6 inch


Julia Gat, Theodore, Nina and Jack, Photography

Julia Gat

Theodore, Nina and Jack, 2016
13 x 19 inch


Solomon Jamy Brown, Telltale, Photography

Solomon Jamy Brown

Telltale, 2018
27.6 x 19.7 x 0 inch


Yang Du, Untitled #25, Fall off wonderland series, Photography

Yang Du

Untitled #25, Fall off wonderland series, 2015
15.7 x 11.8 inch


Carola De Armas, Chameleon - What’s Your Color Today?, Photography

Carola De Armas

Chameleon - What’s Your Color Today?, 2018
23.6 x 35.4 inch


Arsenyco, Maria Maddalena, Lacrime di Cristo, Photography


Maria Maddalena, Lacrime di Cristo, 2019
15.7 x 11.8 x 0.4 inch


Svetlana Melik-Nubarova, By the sea, Photography

Svetlana Melik-Nubarova

By the sea, 2017
20 x 16 inch


Sébastien Castillo, Untitled, Photography

Sébastien Castillo

Untitled, 2013
15.7 x 23.6 x 0.4 inch


Paul-Louis Leger, Bain du 1er Janvier, Photography

Paul-Louis Leger

Bain du 1er Janvier, 2012
11.8 x 17.7 x 0.4 inch


Florence Sanz, Jungle, Photography

Florence Sanz

Jungle, 2015
29.5 x 19.7 x 0.1 inch


James Wigger, Heart Detritus, Photography

James Wigger

Heart Detritus, 2013
15.7 x 12.6 inch


Marie-Agnès Périgault, Étude 26, Photography

Marie-Agnès Périgault

Étude 26, 2013
35.4 x 23.6 x 1.2 inch


Lillian Merritt, Qafas, Photography

Lillian Merritt

Qafas, 2018
19.7 x 19.7 x 1.6 inch


Coralie Salaun, Gueules d'Amour, Photography

Coralie Salaun

Gueules d'Amour, 2017
27.6 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch


Hervé Dunoyer, Aquarelle, Photography

Hervé Dunoyer

Aquarelle, 2016
23.6 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch


Burt Glinn, Portrait of Twiggy, London, Photography

Burt Glinn

Portrait of Twiggy, London, 1966
20 x 16 inch


Marc Harrold, Plage 99, Photography

Marc Harrold

Plage 99, 2017
25.6 x 57.1 x 1 inch


Alexandre Lewkowicz, Harlem Beach, Photography

Alexandre Lewkowicz

Harlem Beach, 1965
39.4 x 27.6 x 0.8 inch


Mik Mød, Searching for the stars, Photography

Mik Mød

Searching for the stars, 2017
35.4 x 23.6 inch


Daniel Dicenta, Ludopathy, Photography

Daniel Dicenta

Ludopathy, 2019
39.4 x 33.5 x 0.4 inch


Lr Photographie, Hommage à mon père, Photography

Lr Photographie

Hommage à mon père, 2016
11.8 x 17.7 inch


Rita Saitta, Aries, Photography

Rita Saitta

Aries, 2015
18.1 x 27.6 x 0.1 inch


Yves Regaldi, Jeune Marka après la pêche, Photography

Yves Regaldi

Jeune Marka après la pêche, 2009
16.5 x 31.5 x 0.4 inch


Gabriel Martinez, Parangon, Photography

Gabriel Martinez

Parangon, 2018
11.8 x 11.8 x 0.1 inch


Thomas Lodin, Old Feeling, Photography

Thomas Lodin

Old Feeling, 2016
31.5 x 47.2 inch


Mairi-Luise Tabbakh, Eliane II, Photography

Mairi-Luise Tabbakh

Eliane II, 2009
9.4 x 11.8 inch


Yoshihiko Ueda, Hands and Feet, Photography

Yoshihiko Ueda

Hands and Feet, 1998
19 x 13 inch


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