A Classic Drawing Book: Everything is Political!

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You can find telling social information in places where you might not expect it–though for Andrew Loomis, who worked as a commercial artist, it shouldn’t be surprising. I downloaded a PDF of his Figure Drawing for All it’s Worth–first published in the 30’s, out of curiosity, because I remembered it from my uncle–who also was a comercial artist, and whose drawing always bore the mark of that style.
What struck me as I read the text and looked at these highly idealized figures, was how uncritically this was presented. No indication of awareness of the social and political impact–the unrealistically idealized figures, in proportion–their nordic whiteness, the not entirely implicit marginalization and exclusion of anything outside of those lines. One comparitive set of figures is partiularly telling. From the “heroic” 9 1/2 head tall figure on the right, to the 8 1/2 head ‘fashion’ figure, the “normal-ideal” 8 head figure, standard for comerical art, to the 7 1/2 head figure on the left (naturally), described as unpleasently “squat” and not suited for or acceptable for commerical work–drawn with a droopy, black mustache–the undesirable southern or eastern European. It goes without saying, there were no black bodies, or Asian faces.
Again, what struck me was the absolute silence, the total absense of any critical understanding of the role played out here in comodifiying certain bodies and devaluing others, it’s racism–all that it was teaching besides how to draw (some types of) human figures.
A drawing book from Reagon’s mythical White America.

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