Themes in Figurative Art Figurative Art – art that uses the human figure as a subjectCommon themes:Religion/ spirituality, love, emotions, death, war, bodyimage, perceived beauty, portraits, human interaction,dreams/ contemplation, sports As we go through images of historical and contemporaryartwork, you will determine what theme each artwork ispresenting.
Venus of Willendorf, 25,000B.C.THEME:STYLE: exaggerated & abstractTECHNIQUE: carved limestoneARTISTS INTENT: This is afertility figure. So women mayhave kept it near them if theywanted to have a baby.
Discus Thrower, 450B.C.THEME:STYLE: realistic & detailed, full of potentialmovementTECHNIQUE: carved marbleARTISTS INTENT: to show athletic energy& to study anatomy
Lord Shiva, 900 A.D. THEME: STYLE: symbolic objects & poses, graceful figure TECHNIQUE: cast bronze ARTISTS INTENT: to show the different roles of the Hindu god, Shiva. In this sculpture, Shiva stands on top of the demon of ignorance. He is in the middle of his dance of destruction- creation of the world. Shiva holds a drum in his top R hand symbolizing the passing of time. He holds a flame in his top L hand, symbolizing destruction before creation. His second R hand is in the “fear not” gesture. His second L hand points to the raised leg, which symbolizes liberation.
Jamb Figures, Chartres Cathedral, FranceTHEME:STYLE: simplified figures, very stiff and formalTECHNIQUE: carved stoneARTISTS INTENT: to show the Kings & Queens of the Old Testament (in the Bible)on the columns of the doorways to the Cathedral
“The Great Buddha”, Japanese sculpture, 1252THEME:STYLE: simplified figure, peaceful, symmetricalTECHNIQUE: cast bronzeARTISTS INTENT: to honour Shakyamuni Buddha, the spiritual and philosophicalteacher and founder of Buddhism; he is shown in meditation, a key component ofBuddhism.
David, by Bernini, 1623, Baroque EraTHEME:STYLE: realistic & detailed, full of action &emotionTECHNIQUE: carved marbleARTISTS INTENT: to show David, fromthe Bible story of David & Goliath.The Israelites were at war with thePhillistines, who had a giant warrior:Goliath.David, a young shepherd, was the onlyIsraelite brave enough to fight Goliath. Hekilled Goliath using his sling shot. Heslung a stone into Goliaths forehead.
“Third of May”, F. GoyaTHEME:STYLE: simplified figures in a landscape, clear focus on the rebelsTECHNIQUE: acrylic paintingARTISTS INTENT: to show the executions of Spanish rebels who fought againstthe invasion of Napoleons French army.
“Odalisque”, by Jean A. D. Ingres, 1814THEME:STYLE: beautified figure, not totally realisticTECHNIQUE: oil paint on canvasARTISTS INTENT: to show the beauty of the female figure.An odalisque was a female slave in the Turkish Empire. The word “odalisque” latercame to mean the mistress of a wealthy man.
“The Thinker”, A. Rodin THEME: STYLE: realistic TECHNIQUE: cast bronze ARTISTS INTENT: to depict a man in deep thought
“The Scream”, E. MunchTHEME:STYLE: expressionist – focusedon portraying emotionTECHNIQUE: paint and pastel oncardboardARTISTS INTENT: to show afigure in agonizing anxiety. Thisfeeling of intense fear is alsoshown in the tumultuouslandscape in the background.
“The Kiss”, G. KlimtTHEME:STYLE: simplified figures, abstract choice of colours & patternsTECHNIQUE: oil paint and gold leaf (collaged gold) on canvasARTISTS INTENT: To show a couple locked in intimacy, against a background ofshimmering, extravagant pattern
“Call of Death”, Kathe Kollwitz, 1934THEME:STYLE: simplified figure, strong contrast of black & whiteTECHNIQUE: charcoal on paperARTISTS INTENT: to show a woman as death approaches
“The Swimming Race”, Alex Colville, 1958 (Canadian)THEME:STYLE: simplified forms, cartoon-like figures, modern background; looks likea photoTECHNIQUE: oil paint on masonite boardARTISTS INTENT: to capture the moment the race begins
Annie LeibovitzTHEME:STYLE: elaborately stagedportraits, strong light & deepshadowTECHNIQUE: photographyARTISTS INTENT: to capture hersubjects in a dramatic setting, andto create a story with the image.
Diane Arbus, “Identical Twins, Cathleen and Colleen”, 1967THEME:STYLE: staged portraitTECHNIQUE: black and white photographyARTISTS INTENT: Arbus liked to photograph rare, unusual people. Shequestioned the idea of what is normal.
Alex Colville, “A Couple on the Beach”, 1977THEME:STYLE: simplified forms, cartoon-like figures, modern background; looks like aphotoTECHNIQUE: paint on masonite boardARTISTS INTENT: To capture a moment between two people in an everydaysetting.
Ken Danby, “At the Crease”, 1972 (Canadian)THEME:STYLE: photographic realismTECHNIQUE: paint on canvasARTISTS INTENT: To capture a snapshot of the game he enjoyed.