Philbrook Features Picasso, Dali and Matisse

FIGURE EXAMINED: Philbrook Museum of Art’s newest exhibition, “The Figure Examined,” runs May 31-Sept. 13 and features works by Pablo Picasso, pictured at right; Salvador Dalí, pictured center; Henri Matisse; and Auguste Rodin, at left. The exhibition includes over 100 artists’ depictions of the human form spanning 150 years of art history.


Philbrook Museum of Art’s newest exhibition, which opened May 31, brings together work from some of the most prominent European artists of the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries including Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and Auguste Rodin, (1840-1917) among others.

“The Figure Examined: Masterworks from the Kasser Mochary Art Foundation” includes over 100 artists’ depictions of the human form spanning 150 years of art history. The exhibition will remain on view at Philbrook through Sept. 13 under the leadership of Philbrook’s coordinating curator Sarah Lees.

The exhibition focuses on the human figure, one of the most universal subjects in art. Some of the earliest people carved simple human shapes out of stone, which inaugurated a tradition in many cultures that placed representations of men and women at the center of artistic production for hundreds of years. In the early twentieth century, when avant-garde practices such as Cubism and Surrealism challenged or overturned longstanding Western traditions of content and composition, the human body nonetheless persisted in art, if in a fragmented or distorted form. “The Figure Examined” traces social ideals, artistic movements and experimentation with media through the dynamic mid-twentieth century.

Artists have chosen the human body as a subject because of the wide range of ideas it can communicate in an immediately recognizable way. These concepts include the expression of individual personality or a generalized type or symbol; the presentation of a figure in a narrative; a performer of work or leisure; or an embodiment of intimacy or solitude. The artists can also include explorations of the way a body moves, takes up space or simply exists unadorned. With works organized not by artist name or chronology but by the ways in which artists have depicted human form, the exhibition explores each of these themes through six sections: Motion, Balance, Stillness; Advancing the Story; At Work, At Leisure; Intimacy and Solitude; Unveiled; and Portraits and Types.

“By presenting such a universal subject,” says Lees, “the exhibition allows viewers to make connections between works of art that are often separated by historical or geographical boundaries. Parallels as well as striking differences in form and meaning emerge clearly from these unexpected juxtapositions.”

Updated 05-26-2015

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