Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas
French, 1834–1917
Danseuse á la barre (Dancer at the Bar), ca. 1885 
Charcoal and pastel on paper
19 3/8 x 22 inches (sheet) 
9 x 12 1/4 inches (image) 
Gift of The Whiting Foundation in memory of Alice D. Johnson, 1988.1


Drawn to the Figure

September 24, 2016 - November 27, 2016

Graphics Gallery

Drawn to the Figure features drawings that explore how human bodies hold powerful potential for artistic expression. Utilizing live models, photographs, memory, or the imagination each artist in this exhibition represents the human form in their own unique manner. Some seek to perfectly replicate the proportions, musculature, and fine details, while others treat the depiction of the human form more abstractly. 

During the Renaissance, drawing became the foundation for the academic principles of art. Before artists learned to paint, they learned to draw. Since then, countless subjects have been rendered in graphite, chalk, and pastel but none has been more prominent than the human body. Because drawing the figure was a requisite skill, artists carefully studied the structure of the human body, at first from cast-plaster statuary and eventually live models. A figure drawing may be created in preparation for a more finished work such as a painting or it may be the final artwork in and of itself. A naturalistic approach to drawing the human figure prevailed until the late 19th century when many artists, liberated from past traditions, began to experiment with abstraction by choosing to exaggerate or distort proportions emphasizing the pose or mood of the models.