The human body has always been a subject for artists, later we will look at the earliest depictions of the human body, the earliest images that humans made of humans, dating from more than 40 000 years ago.
The earliest artists in South Africa, the San rock painters, painted the human body in action: running, leaping, shooting arrows. Very often artists, then and now, would exaggerate some part of the body, as if to animate this action, to express it more forcefully. For example, in San rock images, elongated limbs might express the sense of running swiftly.
Look at the painting above and artists’ works on the next pages (see menu on the right). They depict men using their bodies for hard physical work, for manual labour. These men are working with their hands. In one of these paintings the artist has exaggerated the size of the men’s hands. In another, the artist has given his subject multiple hands. Why? What is the effect of this, in each case?