Every time an artist portrays a human subject, a decision has to be made about the posture of the figure. Will they be standing, sitting, or reclining? Smiling, screaming, or weeping?
Never before given such dedicated attention, Postures argues that the gestures portrayed in a work of art can reflect the mores of a particular period in history, the customs of a certain culture, or a fashion in artistic styles. Exploring these with masterful subtlety, celebrated artist and anthropologist Desmond Morris uncovers fascinating insights about changing social attitudes and conventions throughout history, finding surprising similarities and significant differences.
Morris’s vast selection of gestures, from the handshake to the glove-slap, are analyzed and grouped according to wider forms of communication—greetings, threats, insults, and more. All are illustrated with full color works, ranging from prehistoric masks and Greek statues to contemporary paintings and sculptures. Postures uniquely combines Morris’s expertise in both art and social science, shedding new light on even the most familiar paintings.
Accessible and enjoyable… Most effective when it uses art to draw attention to power dynamics and how behaviors can give insight into social structures.
Desmond Morris is a zoologist, ethnologist, and painter. He is the bestselling author of The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal, The Human Zoo: A Zoologist’s Classic Study of the Urban Animal, Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior, Bodytalk: A World Guide to Gestures, The Artistic Ape: Three Million Years of Art, and The Lives of the Surrealists.