Contrapposto – The classic pose

It’s not long to go now until our exhibition for the Chorlton Arts Festival! A big thank you to everyone who entered work to be exhibited – we’ll be in touch shortly with more details and to arrange payment for the frames from anyone who hasn’t already done so. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy another mini art tutorial – this week, we’re looking at the role the pose plays in composition.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all of the skill of a well-executed portrait is in the hands of the artist. However, the posture and stance of the model plays a key role in creating a balanced and pleasing piece. One of the most widely used poses in classical art is known as Contrapposto.

Manchester drawing lesson - DavidContrapposto is an Italian term meaning ‘counterpose’. It’s used in the visual arts to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot so that the shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs. This gives the figure a more dynamic, or alternatively relaxed appearance. It can also be used to refer to multiple figures which are in counter-pose (or opposite pose) to one another. The leg that carries the weight of the body is known as the engaged leg, the relaxed leg is known as the free leg.

Contrapposto can be seen in a number of classical paintings and sculptures, most famously in Michelangelo’s David. The first known usage was c. 480 BC in an ancient Greek statue from the early classical period. The pose was revived during the Renaissance by Italian artists including Da Vinci, Donatello and Raphael.

From this basis, artists began to explore how poses can communicate a variety of emotions and attitudes. The next time you sketch a model, have a think about what their pose may be expressing and how you can capture that with your treatment of the scene.

As ever, here is a selection of your sketches from last class for you to enjoy; hope to see you next time!

One Reply to “Contrapposto – The classic pose”

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