Distortion, Glorious Distortion

modiglianiElongation, distorted hands, feet, necks. This is the single-most characteristic that I look for and admire in works. If it’s stretched, pressed, enlarged, or diminished beyond its normal state, I love it. And for this, I cannot get enough of Modigliani.

Those necks! Those eyes!

Less obvious is the use of elongation in Caravaggio’s The Supper at Emmaus. The elongated right hand of the disciple sitting at the table draws the viewer in to the painting.


And distortion can portray a sense of the grotesque, the humor, the abstraction of a figure or scene. I especially like the abstraction in Eastern European art, particularly Russian art, like Kandinsky, which inspired some of those in the surrealist movement.




  1. Nice subject! But the pictures are small – I’m going to have to search out a bigger image of Christ at Emmaus to see what you’re talking about.

    Something I’ve noticed in the life drawing classes I run is that beginning artists nearly always make the hands and feet too small in proportion to the rest of the body, while some of the greatest expressive figurative artists tend to do the opposite. A good example is Rodin’s “Burghers of Calais”. The hands are enormous!

  2. Hi Fred, I enlarged the pics for you. I had a sneaking suspicion that the smaller thumbnails weren’t going to work, but I get so annoyed with WordPress sometimes trying to format appropriately. The paragraphs all run together in this post, but I think you can get the gist.

    And wow, I just looked up the Burghers and those hands are big. Next time I’m at the Hirshhorn I need to check it out in person. Actually, I have a big Hirshhorn coffee table book… going to thumb through it now.

  3. Thanks for enlarging the pictures!

    Here in NYC, at the Guggenheim, there’s a great Kandinsky show that fills the entire rotunda (main helical gallery). The one you have here is Miro-esque.

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