Year One - Contextual and Professional Studies Year One - Painting

Themes of Art

Theme of ‘The Human Figure’.

“For thousands of years the human figure has appeared in art. Early cave paintings show figures of hunters simply depicted using a few strokes. In ancient Greece human figures were the main subject on decorated vases. Through the ages the human figure has appeared in portraits, has been used to tell stories or express beliefs, or used to explore what it is to be human.”

Tate Gallery

During my research into the themes of arts, I decided to look into the human figure. I chose this because I have a personal interest to this theme and believe it could benefit my portrayal of figures within my current working projects.

Images that represent The Human Figure:

Artist from all over the world continuously use the human figure as a form of reference to produce work as can be viewed above. They can range from pictures, photography, textiles and sculpture, as well as other forms. Some choose to use the human figure as a realistic reference, like Rineke Dijkstra’s photography. Others observe the human figure and choose to obstruct it within the works like Francis Bacon’s paintings for instance.

Bay Area Figurative Movement, 1950-1965

“A movement of mid-20th-century American artists based in San Francisco who abandoned the dominant Abstract Expressionist style of the period and returned to figuration.”


The Bay Area Figurative Movement, has multiple links to the theme of the Human Figure. The movement focussed upon the figure but was represented in a unique style, largely influenced from Surrealism. Overall, this formed a new way of creating abstraction within art. Personally, I think this movement is a great resource for viewing the human form in an alternate way.

First Generation Artists

The first generation of artists in the Bay Area Figurative Movement were; Elmer Bischoff, Paul Wonner, Richard Diebenkorn and David Park. David Park being the Pioneer of the movement.

Second Generation Artists

The second generation of artists within this movement included Nathan Oliveira, Joan Brown and Manuel Neri.

“These artists rendered genre scenes, local landscapes, and figure paintings with a luminous palette …their works became increasingly idiosyncratic, to the extent that they bled into the Funk Art movement of the San Francisco underground.”



Overall I think the Bay Area Figurative Movement, had a profound impact on art of America. As well as how the human figure is represented, I think the abstraction which was formed in this movement can be viewed in lots of contemporary works, for instance how Jenny Saville manipulate the human figure in forms of realistic abstraction. I’m glad I have researched into the theme of ‘Human Figure’, as well as the Bay Area Figurative Movement as it has enlightened me on alternate ways to represent the figure that I can translate into my future art projects.


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