Life drawing includes a variety of art forms such as painting portraits, sculpting, drawing or sketching. This means that over time many artists have been classified as life drawing artists, often using different art forms or media to express themselves.
From the Lascaux cave paintings to Leonardo Da Vinci and Andy Warhol, life art has constantly evolved, but always represented the human form and the human body, in different shapes, gestures and styles.
We will try to inspire you and list some of the most influential artists that have been using life art in their work.
Statue of Leonardo Da Vinci in Florence, where he lived and worked for sometime.
This Italian polymath born in 1452 was a scientist, an artist and a writer. His incredible curiosity included engineering, anatomy, geology, mathematics, history, music, sculpting, architecture, painting and many more.
He is still recognised today as a “Universal Genius” and his influence on the world is still felt today.
Some of his inventions and designs were only made possible by technology advances centuries later. Armoured vehicles, helicopters, parachutes, were all thought of by Leonardo hundreds of years before they were actually produced.
Leonardo started his artistic life in the service of Verrocchio, as an apprentice in his Florence atelier. Verrocchio was regarded as the best painter and sculptor of the city and Leonardo was there at the same time than other very famous artists such as Botticelli (one of the painters of the Sistine Chapel).
Art studios were very different at the time from what they are today and as an apprentice, Leonardo had to learn many crafts including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry as well as the artistic skills of figure drawing and painting, sculpting and modelling
Leonardo is also thought to be the model used for two artworks by Verrochio, the bronze statue of David and the Archangel Raphael in the Tobias and the Angel painting.
He later became an art instructor himself, leading drawing classes and teaching fundamental drawing techniques to apprentices. His work in drawing the human figure was greatly inspired by Vitruvius, a Latin scholar, and inspired him the Vitruvian man.
This work combined with his knowledge of the human anatomy and the human body made him a leading figure in the medical world of the time.
Leonardo worked for the most powerful men of his time, from the Duke of Milan to the Medici family, the Pope or Francis I, King of France.
His fame is still intact today and people queue up, sometimes for hours, to see the few of his paintings that survived time.
The Mona Lisa painting is the most expensive piece of art in the world. It is protected by a very discreet but bullet proof casing in the Louvres Museum in Paris.
Maybe his most famous work, the Mona Lisa painting is displayed in the Louvre museum in Paris.
The history of the painting is quite tumultuous. It was not really known outside the world of arts until the 1860’s when some French intellectuals and scholars started recognising the incredible work of the artist.
The painting gained international fame when it was stolen from the Louvres in 1911. For almost two years, the painting’s location remained unknown until the thief, an Italian nationalist, tried to sell it to the directors of a gallery in Florence.
The trouble of the Mona Lisa would not stop there: in 1956 it was disfigured by a vandal who throws acid at it and followed on the same year by a rock attack. In both instances, the painting had to be restored.
In 1962, the price of the insurance was so high, $100 million, that the Louvres decided to not take it and increase security spending. It is today estimated to be the most valued painting in the world, with a price tag of nearly $800 million.
Rembrandt is probably the most famous Dutch master. He painted many self-portraits during his prolific career. ( by profzucker)
Often considered to be the greatest visual artist in the history of art, and definitely, the most important Dutch artist, Rembrandt influence on his contemporaries and today’s artists make no doubt.
Born in 1606 in the Dutch Republic, known as the Netherlands today, he was the son of a Dutch Reformed Church father and a Roman Catholic mother. Religion and faith would later be an important part of Rembrandt’s work though it was never confirmed that he belonged to any Church in particular.
Rembrandt never left the Dutch Republic in his lifetime. However, his received training from other Dutch artists who often went to Italy to learn from the most famous Renaissance artists.
He opened his own studio around 1625 when he was 18 or 19 years old and he started to host art classes and art education workshops where he taught beginners Dutch artists.
It took him a few years to make a breakthrough but in 1629, Constantijn Huygens discovered him and helped him to get commissions from the court of the Hague.
Many of his paintings were bought by Prince Frederick Hendrik, the ruler of the Dutch Republic.
He then became a sought-after professional portraitist. Yet, what differentiates Rembrandt from other Dutch master painters of his time, was that his works depicted a wide variety of style and subjects, from portraits and landscape, on biblical, mythological or allegorical genre.
Despite his very early success as an artist, Rembrandt would die as a poor man. It seems that during his life he was an avid art and antique collector. When facing near bankruptcy in 1656, the auction levied to clear his debts included Old Master paintings and drawings but most notable the busts of Roman Emperors, antiquity sculpture, suits of armours from Japan and an extensive collection of minerals.
Not only did Rembrandt taught many Dutch masters but his influence on today’s art and especially his work on light and shadows and on action movement, continue to inspire artists today.
This giant masterpiece by Rembrandt is on display in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (by-FlickrDelusions).
Probably the most famous painting by the 17th-century Dutch artist, the Night Watch is exposed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
The painting is very impressive and has gain fame for 3 main reasons:
It is massive! The painting measures 3.63m by 4.37m, but it is smaller than it used to be. The original work was trimmed in 1715 to neatly fit between two columns in the Amsterdam city hall. The painting that depicts The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem Van Ruytenburch (which was the original name for the painting), captured the militia almost life-size.
The play on lights and shadows is incredible! The painting’s current name dates from the 18th century and was mislead by the dark background, results of a dark varnish layer, which was mistaken for representing night time. Through the play with lighting, Rembrandts has been able to focus the viewer’s attention on three main characters, Frans Cocq and Willen Van Ruytenburch, the two leaders of the company, and the personified emblem of the company, the Golden Girl with the dead chicken on her belt.
And Action! This painting was one of the first to depict a live-action group portrait. The Captain can clearly be seen gesturing to his men to march on. Almost similar to a photograph, the painting was meant to capture a unique moment with models moving rather than standing still. The 18 men of the company that paid the commision of the painting had their names listed on the shield that sits above the gate on the canvass, which was only added later.
Just like the Mona Lisa, this painting was the target of vandalism. The first time was in 1911 (the same year the Mona Lisa was stolen, bad year for art) when the painting was slashed by a man using a shoemaker’s knife. The second time, in 1975, the artwork was attacked by a man who slashes it with a bread knife. It took four years to restore the masterpiece but “scars” can still be observed up close.
A third attack occurred in 1990 when a man sprayed acid onto the canvass, but thankfully, it only damaged the varnish who covered the painting.
A mix of painting and printing was the signature style of Andy Warhol. He is one of the self-portrait he produced during the 80’s (by jpellgen).
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from Slovak immigrants parents, not much predestined Andy Warhol to become the pop culture leader of the booming 1960’s.
As a sickly child, he was often bedridden and later in life described that time of collecting pictures of movie stars and listening to the radio with his mom as a period of great importance in the development of his personality, skill set and preferences.
Early in his career, Warhol worked as a commercial and advertising artists, he went on doing extensive work for the American shoe manufacturer, Israel Miller.
Warhol who had been spotted by the art world for his unusual ink drawings of shoe ads started to exhibit his work in galleries in New York during the late 1950’s and then in Los Angeles in the early 1960’s.
At the same time he began breaking through the art world, he was hired by RCA Records to design album covers and promotional materials for bands of the time.
It is during the 1960’s that Andy Warhol’s work really became famous and his influence over American pop culture established itself. He mastered the art of printmaking using both abstract and realist subjects capturing the essence of objects or celebrities.
During that decade, he produced paintings of iconic American everyday life objects such as the Campbell’s Soup Cans or Coca-Cola bottles and also started painting personalities that fascinated him: actors, singers and influential people such as Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando or Elizabeth Taylor.
He started the Factory, an art studio, that became a hub for artists, musicians, writers, journalists and actors, and underground celebrities.
Sadly Andy Warhol was shot at in 1968 and suffered injuries that would impact him for the rest of his life.
He suffered a decline of popularity in the 1970’s when he was perceived by the rest of the art world as more of an entrepreneur and businessman than an artist.
Despite the criticism of the time, Warhol kept working on his art, often with rich patrons. In 1979 he co-founded the New York Academy of Art, a private graduate art school that today, offers one of the most well-regarded Masters of Fine Arts in the United States.
The New York Academy of Art includes everything from still-life and life drawing classes to demonstrations, exhibitions and galleries. It started drawing lessons and painting classes for all-level students where they can be taught by professional artists.
Andy Warhol died in February 1987 from the complications of a gallbladder surgery.
Today his impact on our modern culture can still be seen pretty much everywhere. Art sales feature his artwork all the time (one-sixth of all contemporary art sales) and his style has influenced both “classical modern art” and pop culture.
In the UK, there is rarely a week that goes by that doesn’t have an exhibition opening about Andy Warhol somewhere in the country.
Gillian Wearing, the English artist that designed the statue of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett that stand on London’s Parliament Square, said: “Warhol left his mark in many more ways than his actual work”.
Warhol painted many celebrities. Often famous actors, singers or artists, Andy Warhol also produced a series of portrait of Chairman Mao, the leader of the People’s Republic of China. ( by Cea)
Maybe some of the most well-known work by Warhol is the 15 feet tall portrait of Mao, leader of the Popular Republic of China.
Realised on silk-screens, many more Mao portraits were produced by the artist over the year, but he used colourful imagery and strong harsh brush thrusts for his original painting.
However the artist did not have Mao pose for him but instead, Warhol used pictures of the Chinese Communist Party leader that figured in the Little Red book, which every party member was encouraged to carry with them at all time as is contained the basis of Maoist ideology.
Once again Warhol had used a mass-produced object to create art, and while he was a fervent critic of American consumerism, he never declared himself of any political party and left his work open to interpretation.
If you are looking to learn how to draw, want to improve your drawing skills or maybe start a sketchbook of nude models, we advise that you supplement your time admiring those famous artists in museums, by taking a life drawing class where you will be guided by a professional artist.
For more advanced people, some art institute and open studio offer a range of art class where you can learn about oils or watercolour painting, the price of the classes often includes the drawing materials such as pencil, charcoal, easel or brushes.
These are also the perfect places to learn about advanced painting techniques, colour theory, three-dimensional representation and shading techniques.
Who knows maybe one day your drawing book or art portfolio will be exhibited in galleries and museums.