Life Study

An exhibition in the Lamb Gallery
Tower Building, University of Dundee


30 May - 18 July 2003
Admission Free


Stuart Taylor Sim
Oil on canvas, 1978

For centuries the human body has been a source of fascination for artists. At Duncan of Jordanstone College, today's Fine Art students still spend a considerable amount of their time in the Life Drawing class. This exhibition features examples of life studies from the museum collections, exploring the way the depiction of the nude form has changed over time.

Most of the examples are 20th century works by former students, including some (like Paul Reid or Stephen Lockhart) for whom detailed depictions of the human form remain at the very heart of their work. These are complemented by a selection of examples from the 19th century, including that era's most famous painter of nudes, William Etty. An accompanying booklet features essays on the history of the nude in art and on the contemporary practice of life drawing .

19th Century Works

Etty's shapely female nudes are among the most famous (or infamous) in Victorian art. Much of his work was considered scandalous, but he became well-known for his large-scale canvases showing classical or religious scenes; the respectability of their subject matter allowed him to include as many naked women as he liked! A fine example is The Wise & Foolish Virgins, which you can see on permanent display in the Law Library.

Studies like this, however, were very much the stuff of private collections, hidden behind curtains or specially-constructed panels (this example was originally housed in an oak-doored case), to be opened by the gentleman collector for the perusal of fellow "art lovers".

Etty spent his entire life painting the female nude, and his more than enthusiastic interest supposedly led to his expulsion from the Royal Academy life drawing classes!

Studies of a Female Model, by William Etty

William Etty (1787-1849)
Studies of a Female Model
Oil on board, c.1830s

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James Watterston Herald (1859-1914)
Oil on board, c.1891

James Watterson Herald

These two female nudes are student works by the Angus artist J W Herald, best known for his jewel-like watercolours.

Herald studied at Herkomer's School, where his fellow students included William Nicolson and James Pryde.

These works were presented to the Art College in 1940 as teaching examples by John T Ewen of Pitscandly.

David Comba Adamson

Born in Renfrewshire, Adamson studied in Antwerp and then Paris, where he lived and worked for several years before settling in Dundee.

His work covered a range of genres but he was best known for portraits.

This male nude was presented to the Art College as a teaching example by Stewart Carmichael, a successful Dundee artist who was for many years on the College Board of Governors.


David Comba Adamson (1859-1926)
Oil on canvas, c.1900


Attributed to Dennis Buchan
Oil on canvas, c.1958


Paul Reid
Figure Study for "The Death of Acteon"
Pastel on paper, 1998

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