Hands in Art


We all take notice of each other in different ways. Most of us first notice the other person’s eyes and what they might reveal about the personality within: caring, thoughtful, intelligent, mischievous. Some people look at your clothes, others your hair style. Think for a moment what feature you take in when you meet someone-particularly someone you are not familiar with.

Look at the image below. How do you think these fine fellows perceive each other? The painting is by the French artist Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) titled Bonjour Monsieur Courbet (The Meeting). Study the image carefully and see what you can discern about the personalities of the three characters. What do the hands tell you? Courbet is on the right- what does his hand firmly placed on the staff imply?
(Credit: bing.com)

Personally I’m a hands observer. And eyes also. For me, these features tell you more about a person than their hair style, clothes, or they way they speak. Over the next few blogs I want us to study a little more about human features and how they are represented in different forms of art. Today we are going to start with hands.

I must show you a close up of the most famous hands in art history. They are of course the near touching hands of God and Adam as depicted in The Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo painted in about 1512 on he ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City. Exquisitely drawn by a genius.
(Credit: The Westologist)

And probably the other most famous hand in art is Rodin's bronze sculpture The Hand of a Pianist which I have showcased in the Hero Image. But we need to go beyond the famous and look in more depth at other hands in art.

If we start with babies and hands we need go no further than the photographic works of Australian photographer Anne Geddes so well known for her images of small children. Geddes’ imagery singularly captures the beauty, purity and vulnerability of children … embodying her deeply held belief that every child deserves to be “protected, nurtured and loved”. (annegeddes.com) Most of us are familiar with cute images such as this one where the impact is created particularly by the child's face, costume and background scenery. The baby hands aren't particularly important except to portray innocence by the way they are placed in this photo.

(Credit: annegeddes.com)

Once adults appear in Geddes' photographs we begin to get messages about the significance of hands. The protective hands of a new father totally overcome with the miracle of life.
(Credit: annegeddes.com)

Notice here how your eyes are immediately drawn to the mother's hands which appear quite large as the mother envelopes her child in love and protection.
(Credit: annegeddes.com)

But Anne Geddes now in her 32nd year of her career and living in New York, is far more than an artist using her photographic talent to promote the various campaigns she is involved in. The two photos above belong to her Diabetes Prevention Campaign in Qatar. She has also established The Geddes Philanthropic Trust to raise money for the prevention of child abuse and neglect. But most moving are her photographs associated with campaigning for the awareness of Meningococcol Disease. These remarkable photographs come from her series titled WIN FOR MENINGITIS.
(Credit: annegeddes.com) (Credit: annegeddes.com)

No words are required. The Geddes’ touch says it all.

There is a little homework for you to do before tomorrow's blog and that is to look at this site which has an excellent visual summary of hands in art over the passing of time. Learn about the creation of Hands by primitive people, early civilisations, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer and many more. No reading- it's all visual.

And a Happy Christmas to all my Russian Orthodox family and friends. (Credit: Russia Trek.org)

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on anewman@netspace.net.au or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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