Human figure has been used widely as the main subject in visual art. The earliest forms, made from expensive metals, come from the European countries. For instance, female figures are made from ivory and stone and they are associated with fertility in women. Since art is a form of conveying human experiences, human figures are commonly used to depict some of these experiences. Besides, some cultures use the figures to communicate religious or ritual messages. The essay discusses the main examples of human figures in different countries and periods as well as how they reflect values in the social, political and philosophical setting.
Art in Egypt has been one of their important features especially in the spiritual beliefs. Artists from Egypt are the ones who formulated guidelines on how to portray human figures in form of statues and paintings. The figures are usually displayed in such a way that the anterior view shows the eye and the torso while the side view shows the head, legs as well as the arms. The human figures are either portrayed as standing or sitting and they have a very firm posture. Additionally, they are extremely idealized and dressed (Clottes, 2003).
One example of a human figure in the Egyptian art is known as ‘The Mycerinus and his Queen’, which was made in 2470 BC. The sculpture represents pharaoh and his queen. In addition to that, the figures are very firm as well as formal thus implying authority, and the forward strides shown by the left foots represents royalty. (Barbujani & Goldstein, 2004, p.121). Moreover, the faces displayed in the sculpture are calm and the genuine look is perfected so that the subject can be commemorated. The figures used in the sculpture are proportional and they bring to mind the impact of Aristotelian mathematics. The values of social, political and philosophical setting have been illustrated in a natural manner using the human figure since it appears real.
In Mesopotamia, there exist different cultures. They include the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians; human figures have been very common in these cultures. Akkadian’s art is more naturalistic when compared to other arts such as the Sumerian art, which is very abstract. Besides, they are designed in a proportional manner. Therefore, it is realistic how the human figures have been used to depict social, political and philosophical values. Akkadian human figures include ‘the head of the Akkadian ruler’ which was made in 2200 B.C. It was carved from bronze and the human heads depicted the ruler or king. Besides, the figure was decorated with an elegant braided crown as well as a beard which was well curled. The beard and crown represents his godly powers while the face indicates the appearance of a perfect human conqueror.
In India, the most important figure during the era of Indus valley civilization was the male nude, which was made between 2500-1700 BC. It was curved from stone, about four inches high, with statuesque muscular components and naturalistic form. It is therefore realistic to use the figure in reflecting social, political and philosophical values. “The nude figure, adroitly expresses the proportions of a human male figure, though the belly is slightly protruded – representative of the Indian yogic philosophy, signifying breath” (Lee, 2003).
In Greek, a human sculpture known as ‘Aphrodite of Melos’ was made in 120 BC. It was curved in marble and the length is about two point five meters. Actually, it looks very beautiful and besides represents inner thoughts and feelings through the physical characteristics it displays. So, it is naturalistic to use the human figure in reflecting values found in the social, political as well as philosophical setting. Furthermore, the human figure is represented in a good posture and observed from different perspectives thus very proportional (Whitley, 2001, p. 286).
Renaissance art achieved a much better practicality and accuracy in its representation of the human sculptures by using mathematical and geometrical standards of proportion and view. For instance, an artist known as Michelangelo made a human figure representing Adam from Sistine lid between 1508-1502. His paintings led to the development of Christianity. “Adam is considered to be one of the most beautiful and technically perfect human figures ever portrayed” (Haskins, 1927). Hence, it was naturalistically used in reflecting social, political and philosophical values.
In Baroque, human figures showed real life, with both distasteful and sensual components left whole. The artists mostly displayed religious as well as mythological themes. An example of a human figure was by Nicholas- Sebastian and is known as ‘Prometheus’. It was made in 1737 in marble and has a height of about one hundred and twenty centimeters. Surprisingly, the human figure assumes a flying posture which is very proportional. Since the human structure portrays actual life, it was used to reflect social, political and philosophical values.
Human figures during the twentieth century European art were very costly due to the emergence of new artistic styles such as cubism and expressionism (James, 2006, p. 11). For instance, the human figure known as ‘Pablo Picasso’ was designed by artist Daniel Henry in 1910. “It typically represents the human form in modern 20th century art” (Jeremy & Antony, 1992). Therefore, the human form can be used naturally to reflect social, political and philosophical values. Additionally, the figure elements are arranged well across the surface of the picture. Hence, the posture is perfect thus proportional.
In conclusion, the theme on human figure and form has been continuously used by many artists in different cultures as well as periods. The human forms have developed and evolved the same way as culture does. Each of the human forms represents social political and philosophical values depending on the time they were designed.