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In the second half of the 20th century, time-honored values of traditional fine art have been steadily replaced by modern art. Although the interest in figurative art remained, life drawing would become more expressionist and less anatomical as artists found ways to reinvent how they depict a human body.
Among of many artists who drew from life, let's check three life drawing artists of the 20th century who left their mark in the history of modern arts.
Born in Austria in 1890, Egon Schiele was mentored by Gustav Klimt, who both influenced him and became a friend. Schiele regarded drawing as his primary form of art and produced 3,000 drawings in his short lifetime. His Kneeling Nude with Raised Hands (1910) ranks as one of the most important art nudes of the 20th Century.
As well as self-portraits, he drew eroticized female nudes, depicting them with an intense, macabre sexuality. Schiele was haunted throughout his life by the death of his father when he was 15, and the experience profoundly influenced his art. His life drawings are tormented and existential. They are often obsessed with sexual exploration, death, perversion and deformity. His nudes are drawn with grotesque, twisted bodies, over-muscular limbs and candid genitalia. Schiele's style was to draw a thick sinuous black outline around his figures, and fill them in with festering, sickly colors. His models were usually people he knew: his wife, sister, lovers, even prostitutes.
This British painter, who was born in Berlin in 1922, specialized in figurative art. Though influenced by surrealism, his later life drawings display a more representational style. He painted nudes of his friends and family, sometimes mistresses, who would often have to endure long, arduous sittings. He would begin each work by drawing the figure in charcoal, and then paint over. Freud also took pride in producing drawings, etchings and sketches of the human form. In 2011, more than 100 of his life drawings were exhibited at the Blain/Southern Gallery in London.
His life drawings, while meticulously realistic, are deeply psychological, somber and alienating. He painted with a thickly-laden brush, variegating the flesh tones, while muting other colors. He once said, "The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes and, ironically, the more real."
Freud's Jewish family moved to London in 1933 to escape the Nazis. There he associated with Francis Bacon and other figurative artists. During his 60 year career, Freud achieved great success and became one of the foremost figurative artists of the 20th Century.
Coppens was born in France in 1909, and trained in sculpture at the École Boulle. He soon changed his artistic direction, favoring drawing in graphite and pastel. His best known works are his life drawings of female nudes, of which most were produced in a realistic style celebrating female beauty. Trained in architecture, Coppens' life drawings also reveal a mathematical harmony.
Coppens exhibited often, including at the prestigious Royal Gallery and the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery. While less well known than Schiele and Freud, his life drawings are today found on many art gallery and museum walls in France.
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