Stand Up Guys

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:

Etty-MaleNude

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:

Prud'hon-male-nude-grasping-his-wrists

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.

Ingres_studyofamalenude

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:

(c) John Croft; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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!

Gericault-study-of-a-man

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:

Rodin

11 thoughts on “Stand Up Guys

  1. Dave says:

    Great post, Claudia! I can’t explain it, but I much prefer standing poses to seated and reclining poses. Somehow I just feel more at ease and present in the moment standing there than I do scrunched up in a chair or sprawled on the platform. I’ve been trying to convince one instructor I regularly work with that I really can hold a standing pose for two hours with a short stretch break or two–she doesn’t believe it and so she has me do long seated poses instead.

    The standing poser I most hold in awe is the model for Myron’s Discobulus. I’ve imitated that pose quite a few times (sometimes using a frisbee as a prop), and I can’t conceive how that guy could have held that pose long enough for Myron to sculpt it. It’s a magnificent standing pose but, trust me on this, don’t try to hold it for more than five minutes.

    • artmodel says:

      Dave,

      I can’t imagine doing the discus thrower pose for more than five minutes! But it sure is a great pose.

      What you said about standing poses is so true. There have been times when, given the option, I offered to stand because of the way my body felt at that moment. The bent limbs and, like you said, “scrunched” up convoluted poses bring their own set of issues, especially if I haven’t been to yoga class in a while! Standing for a typical three hour class really isn’t bad at all. It’s the all-dayers which bring the strain.

      Thanks so much for your comments!

      Claudia

  2. Bill says:

    From my point of view as an artist, I prefer standing poses simply because you can generally see more of the model. In a seated pose, the thighs are usually foreshortened and, from the side, flattened, while much of the figure disappears in the a reclining pose (especially if you have extreme foreshortening from a side view.)

    I generally dislike foreshortening not because it’s difficult to render, but because it compresses the figure. The other problem with foreshortening is that it magnifies the effect of any movement of the model. This is particularly problematic when reposing during group sessions — where half the people want/need exactitude, while the other half just want to get on with it. In any event, though, I am not in favor of inflicting pain on models — so I guess that I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.

    One irony worth mentioning is how, in a short pose session where the model chooses the poses, he/she often selects complex standing poses for the “gesture” drawings, seated for the medium-length poses, and reclining for the longer poses at the end. This makes perfect sense from the model’s point of view, but I’d suggest is the exact opposite of what works for the artist, who wants more “information” when he/she has relatively more time to deal with it.

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      You make a great point that sometimes the needs of the model and the needs of the artists are at odds with each other. No question that most of the things we do for quick gestures are simply out of the question for a longer pose. I did a doozy recently at Spring Studio. I MIGHT have been able to hold it for five minutes, but luckily it was only a two!

      Another thing I probably should have mentioned in the post is that standing poses provide the best view for anatomy study. Academic schools place great emphasis on anatomy, hence another reason for widespread standing poses in those settings.

      Thanks for your great comments!

      Claudia

  3. Dan Hawkins says:

    Like Dave, I prefer to do a lot of standing poses. In fact, artists are often surprised when I offer to stand for a long pose. Yes, I will feel fatigue, but body parts don’t fall asleep like they tend to do in seated poses. And if I know I’m doing a beginner class, I will really emphasize the standing poses. It’s difficult enough to learn proportion; when knees or waist are bent, it’s that much more difficult (and you have the added element of foreshortening thrown in).

    The longest pose I ever did was a standing pose, done over seven weeks (http://artmodellog.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-42-hour-pose.html) but the work that was produced was exquisite. I also did an approximation of Michelangelo’s Dying Slave for three hours this past winter (http://artmodellog.blogspot.com/2013/01/blogging-for-year.html). I wish I could have gotten some shots of the work produced from that session…

    • Dave says:

      Right, the body parts falling asleep thing is one really strong reason I’d prefer to do long standing poses just about any time.

    • artmodel says:

      Dan,

      Those were great blog posts you wrote. And that’s true what you said in your comments about beginner classes requiring standing poses. If they’re going to learn the basics of anatomy and proportion, standing is best. If I’m unaware of the skill level of a class I always ask the instructor so we can plan the pose accordingly.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  4. Jennifer says:

    Fascinating to read a model’s insight into a particular type of pose! Generally, I think standing poses tend to be the shorter ones in the classes I’ve been to, no doubt an acknowledgement of how difficult they are for the model to hold for a length of time.

    • artmodel says:

      Jennifer,

      That’s true generally. But formal schools, academies, etc. will have models stand for all day poses, and then repeat it the next week, and the week after that, and so on.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Claudia

  5. Alan says:

    A bit late in seeing this and responding. My first Life drawing session was at the Royal Academy School in London, many years ago. I was so nervous and had caught a bus to get there and it was stuck in traffic and I arrived late, It was a very large setting and being so young and nervous I found myself standing too close to a “bar” heater, and it being winter, I had run and worked up a sweat, the combination of heater , sweat and nerves, I suddenly found myself nauseous, and had to ask where the rest room was to go and throw up, then when I got back feeling very embarrassed and humiliated, I struck a standing pose, and had no idea about weight distribution or slight changes to relieve pressure, I jammed my foot so solidly to the floor that by the end of the first session when break was called, the pressure had given me an enormous blister on the ball of my foot!

    • artmodel says:

      Alan,

      Thanks for sharing! A bit of harrowing art model experience of which we all have a few, including the traveling hassle! I relate to what happened with your foot. Models should really not be expected to do long standing poses without a yoga mat or padding of some kind to stand on. The platform surfaces are just too hard.

      Thanks for commenting. Hope your modeling work is going well these days, and blister-free!

      Claudia

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