Eastman Johnson (1824-1906)
The Counterfeiters (Study), c.1853
Oil on canvas, 16 x 15 in.
Museum Purchase, 2003.01

George W. Bellows (1882-1925)
Between Rounds, 1923
Lithograph, 18 ¼ x 14 ¾ in.
Museum Purchase, 98.18

Gaston Lachaise (1882-1935)
Walking Man (Portrait of Lincoln Kirstein), cast in 1934
Bronze with brown patina, 21 in.
Museum Purchase, 2010.01

Human Connections: Figural Art from the Bruce Museum Collection

February 12, 2011 - June 5, 2011

The new exhibition Human Connections: Figural Art from the Bruce Museum Collection explores a variety of approaches to the human figure, from illusionistic portraits and classical nudes to timeless abstractions of the human form. Drawn from the Bruce Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition highlights approximately 40 works of art depicting the human form. The show is curated by Julie Barry, the Bruce Museum’s Zvi Grunberg Resident Intern for 2010-2011, and supported by the Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund.

The human figure – the most direct means by which art can address the human condition – has been a constant and enduring theme in art since prehistoric times. Some of the earliest known drawings and sculptures depict the human form. As society has evolved, the figure has maintained its prominent role in artistic expression. Artists from every age have investigated and interpreted the figure, applying the beliefs and values of their own time.

Figural art encompasses an exciting range of possibilities; it can depict the likeness of a specific person, express powerful emotions, or even tell a story. Human Connections showcases a broad selection of figural works from the Bruce Museum’s permanent collection, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and works on paper. These works represent an array of stylistic approaches and span a period of two thousand years, from a first century BCE Roman marble to the Pop Art portraits of Alex Katz and beyond. The exhibition includes works by Auguste Rodin, James Jacques Joseph Tissot, William Merritt Chase, George Wesley Bellows, Gaston Lachaise, Milton Avery, Lester Johnson, and Romare Bearden, among others.

Eschewing traditional frameworks that organize works by chronology, style, or medium, Human Connections is instead organized around a number of key themes in figural art:

  • Portraiture
  • The Nude
  • The Figure in Motion
  • Expressive Body Language
  • Narrative and Genre
  • and Artistic Innovation

These thematic groupings offer the opportunity to compare and contrast works of different styles, movements, and mediums. Such juxtapositions highlight the diversity of figural art, while also revealing the shared themes and connections that cut across the divisions. While varied in their stylistic approaches, the works in Human Connections demonstrate the enduring interest in the human figure across time and place.


For more images from the exhibition Human Connections: Figural Art from the Bruce Museum Collection, click here.