Anatomical Evolution and the Aesthetic response to Figurative Art
Anatomical Evolution and the Aesthetical Response to Figurative Art
From the very occurrence of the humans ability to create pieces of art in order to represent the worldview and the perception of surroundings, it became clear that the way a man started to create something would influence the relationship between the anatomical evolution and a message an artist wanted to put in his/her work. It should be mentioned that the way the creators comprehended and realized the surrounding environment and body itself influenced the anatomical evolution in the representation of human body in different variations of art objects: statues, statuettes, pictures or even cave drawings. Besides, it is worth saying that exaggerating certain anatomical features of the human body in ancient times was directed on the separation of a man from other animal species. One more characteristic of the figurative art is provoking the emotional response to the works. The viewers aesthetic responses to the figure of a woman that the statues of various periods and styles represent will be completely different. In other words, the viewer will experience different emotional reactions after looking on different statues of women due to the styles, in which they are created. The characteristic features of the human body representation, which may be exaggerated or lost in the process of evolution, affect the viewers perception of the works of art. Thus, the anatomical development of the human body and its representation in the pieces of art have an essential influence on the peoples aesthetic response to the figurative art and their perception of different artworks.
Before discussing the anatomical evolution and aesthetical response to the figurative art, one must explain important terms. In order to determine some peculiarities of the anatomical evolution and its influence on the peoples perception of pieces of art, the notions primitive anatomical traits and derived anatomical traits should be defined. In his article Anatomical Evolution and the Aesthetical Response to Figurative Art, Albert Magrodefines the primitive anatomical traits as those, which were characteristic to the fossil ancestors and are not expressed any more (Magro). In other words, these features were typical for the representatives of the Homo species but in the process of evolution, they stopped to prevail in humans. Concerning the derived anatomical traits, according to the author, they have appeared recently and became characteristic to a human (Magro). In this case, the term derived refers to features, which appeared in the process of the anatomical evolution of the human body. The hominin fossil records help the humanity to research the human body evolution more profoundly. It is possible to observe the exact changes, which the anatomical evolution brought, through comparing the fossils with the present-day human body. The most essential features, which appeared due to the evolutionary processes, are bipedalism, increased reliance on intelligence, mate cooperation and reduced sexual dimorphism, development of the omnivorous diet, and enhanced manual dexterity (Magro).
In addition to the anatomical development, many changes, which are associated with the development of the derived traits, are considered to affect the persons understanding and realization of the works of figurative art. Regarding the most prominent changes, one must note that straight walking played an essential role in the muscle forming and skeleton building in a man. Besides, literally, getting off the trees provoked the development of straighter fingers, longer neck, and less sloping shoulders. The changes in the diet affected the appearance of the thinner waistline and less round abdomen. The cooperation and usage of different tools had resulted in the reduction of the sexual dimorphism. It means the teeth started to grow closer to each other, the upper and lower jaws became smaller and narrower, the face became more oval-shaped or triangular, and the distance between the nose and lips became shorter.
Analyzing the ways of exaggeration in the figurative art, one must state that the western works of art are good examples of their demonstration. For instance, the Cycladic statuette of a woman owns exaggerated derived traits the triangular face, very long neck, high forehead, narrow waist, and long legs. One more example of the exaggeration of the derived traits is the Greek kouros statue. The oval face, square shoulders, and long legs characterize it. Michelangelos David is a prominent example of the exaggeration of the above-mentioned anatomical traits as well. The key distinctive features are high forehead, oval face, long neck, and curved lips.
The combination of the exaggerated primitive and derived traits is worth viewers attention. The African figurative art represents it. The wood sculpture known as the Seated Couple demonstrates such primitive traits as thin straight lips, torso with straight waist, and short bowed legs. According the derived traits, this piece of art includes high forehead, oval face, big and prominent eyes, and straight toes. Another example of combining both types of features is the Senufo face mask. Among primitive traits, there are long distance between nose and lips, thin straight mouth, and pointed teeth with spaces between them (Magro). The derived features of the mask include triangle-shaped face and high forehead.
Contrasting western and African pieces of art may be interesting because it helps to define the interconnection between the representatives of two different cultural directions and their influence on each other. In order to be more specific, one should mentioned that after some African artworks were brought to Europe at the end of the nineteenth century, many artists had felt their influence. From that time, people started to use the term primitive to distinguish the objects, which had specific features of the African pieces of art. Many researches and scientists who work with the African art performance draw the audience attention to the necessity of the African artworks exhibition due to the peculiarities and context of this culture. They claim that African art cannot be considered primitive due to its history and meaning. Western world neither got any explanation of this art nor developed the understanding of it right after the presentation of these culturally different objects to public (Magro). Therefore, the significance of African pieces of art has been neglected, and the African art was unfairly considered the primitive one. Some of the researches support the idea that even those African pieces of art, which were used for the spiritual or magical purpose, should be aesthetically appreciated because people act in the same way with their western equivalents. In other words, the aesthetical value of the western and African pieces of art is equal.
Concerning the perception of the drawings and shapes, it is worth mentioning that peoples sensitivity to the human forms is connected with the way, in which these forms and proportions evolved. It means that the persons reaction to the pieces of art depends on what he/she considers attractive and unattractive. The studies showed that the derived human traits are perceived as attractive while the primitive ones seem unattractive for people (Magro). What is more, the attractive derived anatomical traits produce stronger emotional response. Consequently, the attractiveness plays an essential role in the process of mate selection. The reproductive value of the derived traits may explain peoples disagreement with perceiving the primitive anatomical traits. From the evolutionary perspective, the natural selection favored the attractive derived traits in order to increase the survivability and successful procreation of humans (Magro). Consequently, a person is supposed to respond to the most attractive mate due to the evolved anatomical features to provide further species development.
Concerning the difference between beautiful and aesthetical things, it should be mentioned that despite being disproportional and primitive, African pieces of art are considered aesthetical. To be more specific, these art objects are rather eye-catching due to their forms and meaning. Though one may consider them unattractive, the African forms do not aim to show the perfect human body. Their attractiveness is in their simplicity, which, in fact, has its own deep meaning. In other words, according to Sibley, in the figurative art, the non-aesthetic forms and qualities such as anatomical features provoke innate adaptive emotions, which influence the aesthetic comprehension of a person. There is also another approach to the explanation of the aesthetical understanding called neuroaesthetics. It is a discipline, the purpose of which is to determine the influence of art images on the brain and how the brain responds to art. In addition, according to some researchers, only the emotional words can explain the meaning and purpose of art.
In conclusion, anatomical evolution and the aesthetical response to the figurative art can be considered from different points of view. Through two terms primitive trait and derived trait one can explain the concepts mentioned above. Primitive trait is a feature of the human body, which does not prevail in people anymore, and this trait is not expressed. Derived trait is the one, which has appeared recently and became prevalent in a human. Positive viewers reaction to the evolved anatomical features of the human body determines the aesthetical response. It is connected with the biological instinct to select the most attractive mate in order to provide the species survival. African figurative art represents the combination of the exaggerated primitive and derived traits. The demonstration of the derived traits characterizes western figurative art. The aesthetical value of the western and African pieces of art is equally high. The mans reaction to the pieces of art depends on what a person considers attractive and unattractive. The studies showed that the derived human features were perceived as attractive while the primitive ones seemed unattractive. According to the researchers of aesthetics, only the emotional words can describe the meaning and purpose of art.