The Royal Academy of Arts presents From Life, a special exhibition project that examines what making art from life has meant to artists throughout history and how the practice is evolving as technology opens up new ways of creating and visualising artwork.
The Royal Academy looks into its own past to illustrate that drawing from casts of Classical and Renaissance sculpture and life models was considered essential training for any aspiring artist. Some are the casts are shown in the exhibition.
The exhibition features paintings by Johan Zoffany that show gatherings of Royal Academicians in a life-drawing room. The formality of the occasion suggest that the ability to draw well was an accomplishment that was valued especially at the RA Schools, Britain’s longest established fine art school.
The RA is on the eve of its 250th anniversary and explores how contemporary artists are continuing the process of working from life. One of the major changes over time is the rejection of Classical and Renaissance sculpture has the main subject matter.
Artists like Jenny Saville, Ellen Altfest, Chantal Joffe and Gillian Wearing are more interested in a more realistic depiction of the human face and body.
Other artists such as Jonathan Yeo, Antony Gormley and Yinka Shonibare use the human body as a starting point before developing more abstract forms.
Jeremy Deller’s Iggy Pop Life Class which took place at the Brooklyn Museum in 2016 is a modern take on the old life class tradition. Using ageing rock star Iggy Pop as his model, Deller introduces a new dynamic into the equation. Most models tend to be are anonymous, so what happens when the model has a cultural identity already? The pictures produced by a number of skilled and novice artists indicate that capturing something other than the body in that format is very difficult.
The exhibition moves From Life to Virtual Life with new interactive work of artists Yinka Shonibare, Humphrey Ocean, and architect Farshid Moussavi which offer a glimpse of possible future applications of Virtual Reality technology for the art of tomorrow.
As part of the RA’s 250th anniversary celebrations, they are offering 250 people of all abilities the chance to follow in the footsteps of generations of great artists at free life-drawing classes in the historic RA Schools Life Room. The places will be allocated through an open ballot.
This fascinating exhibition charts one of the constants of the art world, although drawing from life has changed considerably it still is one of the fundamental skills for many artists. The Royal Academy is using its upcoming anniversary to consider how the life of the artist has changed over the last 250 years and explores some of the exciting new developments on the horizon.
Video Review available here
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information , visit the Royal Academy website here
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