Prints and Drawings Rooms display

Tony Bevan, ‘Portrait Man’ 1994
Tony Bevan
Portrait Man 1994
© Tony Bevan

This display explores a range of approaches to drawing the body over the last 200 years.

Modern artists have represented the human body in corporeal or abstract form, to address issues of gender, power and identity in their work. Paula Rego, for example, focuses almost exclusively on the - often sexualised - female body to examine women’s identity in society. Francis Bacon’s visceral treatment of flesh and expressive depiction of movement reflects his existentialist ideas about man. Tracey Emin represents her own body in emotional contexts, while Tony Bevan depersonalises his self-portraits with a distorted, abstract language.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, artists including George Romney and J.M.W. Turner idealised the body in finished works, ‘elevating’ it beyond everyday material or social contexts. Classical art was emulated in paintings of grand subjects from the Bible, mythology, literature and history, and academy students drew from plaster casts of antique sculptures before drawing from the real body in life- and anatomy classes.

The works on paper in this display were made for different purposes including academy studies to hone technical skill; preparatory drawings for finished paintings, sculptures and monuments; and realised compositions in print.

This display has been devised by curator Julia Beaumont-Jones.

See also

Visit the Prints and Drawings Rooms

Tate Britain’s Prints and Drawings Rooms, on the upper floor of the Clore Gallery provide access to works on ...