Classical artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci stun with the anatomical exactness of their portrayal of the body (take a look at the Vitruvian Man). However, it is the figurative work of modern artists that truly captivates me. Flesh and muscle can be rendered insubstantial or obliterated; contours can be distorted in astonishing ways; non-naturalistic colours can be substituted for skin tone. Three artists in particular comes to mind here.
Schiele highlights angles inherent in the bone structure and musculature of the body, producing twisted forms that are highly expressive.
The impact of Bacon's work is immediate and forceful. Under his hands, the human figure is subjected to physical contortions and material distortions of an extreme degree. Flesh is stripped away to reveal the skeletal structure, dissipates into mist, or melts into slime. The result of such ravages, according to him, is that the ugliness and baseness of human nature is revealed. "We are meat; we are potential carcasses," he declared. His work banished my preconceptions of figurative depiction in painting.
Giacometti's deceptively simple work is modern figurative sculpture at one of its finest. Emanciated and enveloped by empty space, the figures evoke a sense of loneliness, strain and desolation, but tinged with self-determination in their erect stance. They are a compelling metaphor for the psychological state of human beings in the post-war era and even today.