Exhibition Details

Location: Mabel A. Woodyard Gallery for American Art
Dates: May 4, 2018
to September 9, 2018


Since the Renaissance, the human figure has been fundamental to traditional art training.  This installation presents a group of works from the collection from the 19th and 20th centuries representing these well-established conventions. Figure painting remains strong today, and contemporary artists continue to explore a subject with deep historical roots (Kehinde Wiley’s portraits are notable examples). Figure painting and drawing remains an important part of the curriculum in contemporary art schools. The American artists on view all studied in American or European art academies.

By the late 19th century, artists born in the United States had opportunities for professional training in this country, but not surprisingly they preferred the ateliers of Paris.  Students who flocked to the French capital immersed themselves in a competitive atmosphere of intense study, bracing critique, and provocative exhibitions. Because admission to the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris was difficult, many École teachers established private schools offering a more flexible curriculum and schedules. Close study of both the nude and clothed figure in a range of poses taught students exceptional technical skills in carefully rendering detail, and depicting highlights and shadows. Their goal was to produce large, handsome multi-figured canvases that would gain for them acceptance in the annual state-sponsored salons, immense exhibitions that drew large crowds.
The Figure in Context: An Academic Tradition is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. It is made possible through the generosity of donors to the Museum's annual fund.

Admission is free for Museum Members, past and present members of the Military and youth aged 5 and under; included with general admission. For a full breakdown of general admission prices and hours, please visit phxart.org/visit.

This exhibition is offered to the general public for free during voluntary donation, free-access hours from 3–9 pm each Wednesday, from 6–10 pm on the First Friday of each month, and the second weekend of each month from 10am–5pm on Saturday and noon–5 pm on Sunday.
Interested in coming as a group? For group sales information, click here. 

Press Information

Media Contact: Margaree Bigler, Public Relations Manager, margaree.bigler@phxart.org 

Exhibitions Page: Julius Rolshoven, Madame Koch and Her Children (detail), 1898. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Ellen and Howard C. Katz in honor of the Museum's 50th Anniversary.

Left: Philip Pearlstein, Two Nudes, Bamboo and Linoleum (detail), 1984. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Joel and Carole Bernstein Family Collection.

Center: Peter Hurd, Portrait of Nito (detail), 1961. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum.

Right: Robert Henri, The Laundress (detail), 1916. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Hirschl.