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Postures: Body Language in Art

Desmond Morris


From the ever-provocative author of The Naked Ape, a pioneering and lively exploration of the importance of body language in art

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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? Will they be clasping their hands, crossing their arms or raising their fist?

For the first time, celebrated surrealist and bestselling author Desmond Morris brings together his two fields of expertise – art and science – in a single volume. As well as exploring such familiar actions as the handshake, the nose-thumb and the dominant elbow, he draws us into an absorbing story of art detection, tracing the roots of a number of gestures that have baffled and intrigued the art world for years. Why, for example, did Napoleon pose for official portraits with his right hand thrust into his waistcoat, and what is the meaning of the double-split hand gesture displayed in El Greco’s The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest?

Encompassing a vast range of visual creativity, from prehistoric figurines, Roman artefacts and Renaissance frescoes to contemporary art and graffiti, Postures: Body Language in Art unlocks new ways of looking at art. Surprising similarities are uncovered, as well as now rarely used gestures, so that even the most familiar works are suddenly seen in a new light.

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'Morris’s text sparkles with wit and the reader is instantly carried away by his enthusiasm for presenting art in a completely new way'
Irish Times

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 320 pp

Illustrations: 300

Publication date: 3 October 2019

ISBN: 9780500022610

About the Author

Desmond Morris is one of the last surviving Surrealists. His first solo exhibition was held in 1948 and in 1950 he shared his first London show with Joan Miró. He has since completed over 2,500 Surrealist paintings, and eight books have been published about his work. He has also written several books, one of which – The Naked Ape – ranks among the top 100 bestsellers of all time, with over 12 million copies sold. His title The Lives of the Surrealists was published in 2018 by Thames & Hudson