Human Figure


Representations of the human figure are some of the earliest depictions found in art across the globe. Drawn, painted, and sculpted images of human beings can be found in Han Dynasty tombs in China, in Mayan art, and even in the nearly 30,000-year-old wall drawings of the Chauvet Caves in southern France. The human figure has also been central to Christian art for thousands of years and fundamental to the art of the Renaissance. Importantly though, many cultures throughout history have not sought to include human figures in their art. Islamic art, for example, did not include people in images due to the belief that only God is able to create living beings. Jewish art similarly refrained from the representation of figures due to its condemnation of idolatry. With its tendency toward abstraction and pursuit of a realm beyond the visible, Modern Art generally moved away from the figure. It was not until the 1980s that figures started to reappear in many avant-garde artists’ works. Human figures have remained a significant subject in contemporary art alongside the continuing interest in abstract and conceptual art.