In academic art settings, models are often asked to do standing poses. Why? Because standing poses are considered “classical” and are well-suited to traditional study. While both male and female models are asked to do standing poses in such environments, the dreaded task of long pose standing seems to fall more heavily on male models. During art’s golden ages of the past, the academic male nude was the epitome of the idealized human form. Browse through galleries of Renaissance art, Old Masters drawings, Greek and Roman sculpture, etc. and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Of course female models pose standing for academic work. I’ve done a ton of it. This one was memorable. But the standing male nude has been, and continues to be, the exemplar of formal life study. And my male counterparts answer the call with poise, resilience, and professionalism.
A wonderful back view of a strong, muscular model, Standing Male Nude by William Etty:
I hesitate to say that standing poses are “easier” for men, as I’m sure my model friends – male and female alike – would argue that there is nothing “easy” about a long, all-day standing pose. The discomfort we feel in those situations involves fatigue more than pain, although pain can be an issue as well. I’ve read that women’s muscles are actually slower to fatigue than men’s – that while men have more raw strength, women have greater endurance. I’m a tad skeptical of that, but perhaps it’s true. What I do know from my years of experience is that male models handle standing poses extremely well. If they feel discomfort they tend to keep it to themselves and soldier on. Also, let’s face basic facts about male vs female physiques. Men are stronger. They have stronger muscles and more muscle mass. That’s just the way it is. Testosterone, folks. Now we can quibble about the body varieties which exist among individuals of both genders. But broadly and generally speaking, these innate characteristics apply.
In life modeling, strength matters, especially for standing. Strong quads and hamstrings sure are helpful. Toss in some active gestures on top of the standing and you have quite a posing challenge. Let’s take a look at a few more examples of the fellas doing their thing.
It takes a great deal of physical strength – in the legs, torso, and back – to pull off a standing pose like the one in this drawing by Prud’hon. It’s a good example of the kind of thing asked more often of male models than female models:
A beautiful contrapposto pose that projects both strength and elegance, Male Torso by Ingres, year 1800. The pole is a common prop in in art studios and a favorite in academic settings. I consider it best utilized by male models. Personally I never use the pole unless I’m asked. I see it as a guy thing.
The pole again, assisting this male model in creating a great action pose which enhances the musculature, twist, and movement of the figure. Standing Male Nude, 1898, by British artist Harold Knight:
All art models everywhere should bow down in respect to the guy posing in this work, Study of a Man by Theodore Gericault, 1812. What you see here is pure torture. Just looking at it is giving me muscle spasms!
On this holiday weekend I hope my male model peers relax and sprawl out on chaise lounges, the beach, in jacuzzis and whatnot. You deserve it. The new art school semesters are upon us, and you know what that will bring. Get your standing legs ready boys ;-)
The Age of Bronze, Auguste Rodin: