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Motion in Art

Painting and photography allow the artist to capture a moment in time. That moment is frozen ... or is it? Numerous artists have attempted to depict motion and to show movement over time. Look at the pictures below to see all of the different ways that artists have tried to make a visual suggestion of motion.    


Nude Descending a Staircase, a painting by Marcel Duchamp
Painting by Marcel Duchamp
Dynamism of a dog on a leash, a painting by Giacomo Balla
Painting by Giacomo Balla

In Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending A Staircase from 1912, the person is painted as if there were multiple depictions of the same person going down the stairs; the viewer can see each step being taken. In Giacomo Balla's Dynamism Of A Dog On Leash, also from 1912, one can almost feel the frantic energy of the little dog, it's feet shuffling quickly, it's tail wagging excitedly, and the hurried footsteps of the person trying to keep up.

The Great Wave, a woodblock print by Hokusai
Woodblock print by Hokusai
Unique Forms of Continuity, a sculpture by Umberto Boccioni
Sculpture by Umberto Boccioni

The Great Wave, from 1823, by the Japanese artist Hokusai. This wave has reached its peak, and is starting to curl into a downward movement. The impending crash of the wave creates a tension in the picture. Umberto Boccioni's sculpture, titled Unique Forms of Continuity from 1913, also shows a person in motion. The sculptor's aim was to illustrate the interaction of a moving object with the space that surrounds it.

The Cavalry Charge, a painting by Frederic Remington
Painting by Frederic Remington

Frederic Remington's painting The Cavalry Charge from 1907, doesn't use any abstract tricks to suggest motion; instead, the painter has captured the horses at full speed, and the expression on the lead horse's face shows the urgency with which they are running. It's interesting that the energy and action in this picture comes from the horses; the men riding them are in rigid and seemingly calm positions.

Photograph of a golf swing by Harold Edgerton
Photograph by Harold Edgerton
Blam, a painting by Roy Lichtenstein
Painting by Roy Lichtenstein

In this photograph from 1938, one can see Harold Edgerton's technique of using multiple flashes during the process of taking the picture, which allowed the camera to capture high-speed motion. Here we see the golf club during the full range of its swinging motion. For more on Harold Edgerton, check out Artsology's feature on his stop-action photography.

In Blam, a 1962 painting by Roy Lichtenstein, we see the moment where a plane has been struck by fire. The upside-down position of the plane suggests that the impact from the blast will send it hurtling off the right side of the canvas.

Blue Poles, a painting by Jackson Pollock
Painting by Jackson Pollock
The Red Horseman, a painting by Carlo Carra
Painting by Carlo Carra

Jackson Pollock's painting Blue Poles from 1953 is an abstract painting whose imagery is the result of motion - the motion of Pollock taking his paintbrush and flicking paint across the canvas. Whether pouring, flicking, dripping or spilling paint, Pollock made conscious motions to get the effects he desired. The Red Horseman, by Carlo Carra from 1913 shows a horse and its rider in a somewhat abstracted manner. The approach to portraying motion is similar to that of Duchamp, in showing the parts of the bodies in multiple stages of movement.

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Salvador Dali at Artsology Artsology offers free online games about the arts, and delivers investigations into topics in the visual arts, music, and literature. Artsology is a good resource for fun learning about the arts for people of all ages and is enjoyed by students, homeschoolers, and adults. Follow us on Twitter or become a fan of our Facebook page.Miles Davis at Artsology

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