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Statement on Art Curricula Use of Human Figure Models

“The foot of a man is nobler than his shoe, and his skin nobler than that of the sheep with which he is clothed.”
 -- Michelangelo

From the earliest known beginnings of human civilization, artists have respectfully and professionally studied the unclad human figure. From Ancient Greece to the Renaissance, ancient systems of human representation have evolved into developed systems for drawing or sculpting the figure with ideal measurements (classical cannon). The modern age, and in postmodern cultures spanning the entire global community, rendering the human form has adapted modern conventions, representations, and interpretations of the human form. The history of Western art teaches us that artist training focused solely on complete abstraction or deconstructed “avant-garde” novelty ultimately fails. The classical approach to training artists through the study of the human figure and working directly with the realities of life and living forms provides the best foundation for an artist’s knowledge and skill.

The faculty and administration at Clatsop Community College are committed to an academically rigorous, professional, high quality, and comprehensive curriculum in the Visual Arts. To develop, attain, and maintain the highest possible standards, we use the time-honored professional practice of incorporating the study and rendering of the human figure in all of our Art courses – including the professional and ethical use of nude models in a manner that preserves the art studio’s educational decorum as a teaching and learning environment.

We believe the study of the human figure is imperative for the developing artist. To analyze and translate the most complex natural form known to mankind has both mechanical and physiological advantages. The basic understanding of human form and anatomy provides students with a solid artistic foundation not only to the art of seeing, rendering, translating, and interpreting but to the more important realization of the direct connection to the human continuum and its relationship to the world. Due to society’s daily interaction with the human form, it is the easiest subject for students to understand; yet, by its complex nature and infinite variety, the human form is one of the most challenging subjects to artistically master.

In art, the depiction of the human form is rooted in the scientific study of human anatomy; only through comprehension of the skeletal infrastructure, the overlay of the vital organs as well as the muscular and circulatory systems, and with an overarching appreciation for the physics of human motion can the sack of skin and/or articles of clothing covering the human form take meaningful shape and artistic expression. Just as tendons connect muscle to bone, the study of the human form provides the sinew between science and art.

Such in-depth study and disciplined practice of the undraped human figure develops keen observational skills and enhanced visual understanding of basic visual and figural art elements (including line, composition, proportion, use of space, contrasting light and shadow, positive and negative shapes, and sight-size rendering). Through this practice, students learn how to translate what they actually see accurately onto paper, canvas, clay, stone, photographic plate, or any other medium, without preconceptions or unintentional distortion. These core skills, knowledge, and abilities translate to all subject matter in the visual arts’ disciplines, from landscapes to still lifes to abstract images. With this foundation, students are ultimately freer (and better equipped) to explore and develop their own artistic vision beyond the classroom.
 

Last Updated: 
February 11, 2011, 3:29 pm
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