Account for the Centrality of Life Drawing as a Key Form of Training for Artists Since the Renaissance.

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Account for the centrality of life drawing as a key form of training for artists since the Renaissance. Illustrate your answer with reference to at least THREE images/or photographs of life classes including Zoffany’s Royal Academy School, 1771. The practice of life drawing has always been a strong aspect of training artists since the Renaissance age; it has not only provided training in the technical aspects of making a piece of art such as the handling of materials and learning to observe a subject in order to translate it into a picture but also the mental process of creating an image that is personal to the artist. Yet the position life drawing holds in the modern practice of art, while still of importance it is not the defining teaching. This essay will examine the rise of figure drawing and what has kept it in the curriculum of art for so long; yet also the obstacles it provided for some as well as what values it has and still does provide for the skills of artist and the visual arts. The formal study of the nude as part of a curriculum in the teaching of the arts was established during the Renaissance in Italy from the 13th to the 16th centuries: the nude figure became a prominent subject in the Western artistic vision. The key concepts that produced and developed this style in Western art were the ideas of Humanism, a philosophy that was centred heavily upon achievements: what was and could be the potential of humanity and the importance of the human as an individual. Visually the art of the Renaissance was influenced by Classical Roman and Grecian sculpture, which placed a strong emphasis on the accuracy of proportions and realism of the human form. This desire for realism in Classical sculpture was a quality which Renaissance artists were keen to imitate, especially in an age when there was a collective eagerness to gain knowledge of the world through practices such as science and mathematics. Why couldn’t the world be explored though the medium of the human form? The synthesizing of Classical art and Humanism resulted in the genre of history painting that rose to the status of the most respected and apparent theme of European painting. As the human figure was evidently essential to the notion of human history, it was from this that the study of life drawing began to find its place within the processes and teachings of art. If one was to depict human truth or ‘visual perfection only hinted at by any one human being’ (Breazeale 2008 p10), then it was necessary that they learned to observe and record this truth from the study of the human form. The teaching of art became formalised by academies in the Renaissance; naturally this was established within Italy and for the first time life drawing became a central mode of study alongside other methods of drawing the human form such as anatomy, casts of Classical sculptures and drawing after master artists of the time. These influenced the outcomes of the life drawing and consequentially the art that became from the drawings: Classical poses with heavily stylised bodies such as prominent, defined musculature obviously formed with some idealisation in mind. These processes and techniques within the education taught at these initial academies proved a popular and favourable system in the training of artists; it is hardly unexpected that the teaching and ideals of the Renaissance spread over Europe. Major influences of attracting others from the continent to the style of Italy were notably the writings of Giorgio Vasari; a key figure within the contemporary art of the period who emphasised the developments and practices of the academies and artists as well as established the first art school of drawing in Florence 1563, the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno. This in turn spurned artists of Europe to travel to this cultural centre in order to achieve similar talent, style and advantages and in turn draw it back to their native lands. A significant example of this is in the...
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