Figure Studies

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"To get the right proportions in painting living creatures, first visualize their bony insides, for bones, being rigid, establish fixed measurements." —Leon Battista Alberti

Figure studies—preparatory drawings typically rendered in chalk, charcoal, crayon, or ink—have played an integral role in the history of Western Art. Renaissance artists, concerned with exacting the human form and discovering ideal proportions, began drawing from live models and cadavers at the beginning of the 15th century as preparation for their paintings; ever since, figure studies have been appreciated as wholly independent works of art. During the Renaissance, figure studies also proved essential to fresco painters—who aimed to depict accurate figures in the fast-drying medium—as well as for artists needing to show plans to patrons for commissions. The preparation of studies was later central to the practices of French academic painters and Neoclassicists. While in subsequent years, with the more expressive tendencies of Romanticism and Impressionism, preparatory stages were omitted in favor of direct application of paint on the canvas, the medium endured. Henri Matisse, for one, became, well-known for his expressive line drawings of nudes, and today, the figure study continues to be a widely-used tool by students of painting.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019