Thursday, February 23, 2006

Robert Beverly Hale

Robert Beverly Hale by Daniel E. GreeneWhile preparing my post on Daniel E. Green I found an image of his incisive pastel portrait of Robert Beverly Hale (left).

Hale was probably the foremost teacher of figure drawing and artistic anatomy in America. He was Curator of the American Painting and Sculpture Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Instructor of Drawing and Lecturer on Anatomy at The Art Students League in New York, and Lecturer on Anatomy at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

When I was a student at the Academy I had the privilege of attending Hale’s lectures on artistic anatomy. I was pretty young at the time and unaware of Hale’s status or reputation as a teacher. To me he was just “the anatomy lecture guy”. His lectures, however, left no doubt that you were getting the real goods from someone who knew his subject in extraordinary depth. I began to realize just how good he was when I started to pick up his books.

Hale was the author or co-author of some of the best books ever written on figure drawing and artistic anatomy: “Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters: 100 Great Drawings Analyzed, Figure Drawing Fundamentals Defined,   Master Class in Figure Drawing,   Artistic Anatomy (with Dr. Paul Richer), and   “Anatomy Lessons from the Great Masters” (with Terence Coyle).

All of them are excellent. Anatomy Lessons from the Great Masters is my favorite book on artistic anatomy. Coyle took material from lectures by Hale, who really knew the work of the masters in addition to his knowledge of figure drawing and anatomy, included the corresponding images from Rembrandt, Rubens, Raphael, Michaelangelo, Pontormo, Leonardo, Prud’hon and others, and arranged them on opposing pages to illustrate important principles of artistic anatomy.

Hale’s quotes are accompanied by a diagram that Coyle has annotated so you know exactly what part of the master drawing Hale is referring to (image at left, below Daniel E. Green’s portrait of Hale). Wow, what a great way to learn artistic anatomy.

 

60 thoughts on “Robert Beverly Hale

  1. Neil Harlan

    When I attended Mr. Hales lectures they were marvelous. I later studied with Vincent Perez and he was quite good but not in the same league as Hale (No pun intended).

    Having these videos for some time and having the sting of the purchase price fading a bit I am glad to re visit them to show others moments of his lectures where he is relatively focussed. I dont show the many unfortunate parts though. Sadly these are the only recordings of this once great master. They are important that they exist at all.

    There are truly excellent videos on Artistic Anatomy by contemporary teachers. I strongly urge those who seek education to go to those. Hales videos are historical but have too many inaccuracies to reliable teaching tools.

  2. Tom Hall

    Sometimes Hale would say that a “flick of the wrist of a good instructor could explain some things far better than words in a book”. On the other hand, he was also fond of saying “it’s all in the books”. My favorite was “every subject eventually yields to study”.

    I’m sure there are competent artistic anatomy instructors out there these days but can they make an accurate drawing on a ten foot high black board with a piece of chalk at the end of a three foot stick?

    These videos were a lectures series given one night a week for 10 weeks. I don’t believe they were intended to leave you with all you would ever need to know on the subject of artistic anatomy.

    Again, the whole reason the videos were made was so that Robert Beverly Hale would have a face in the future and one could get some idea of how great he was. It was never intended by anyone, at the time the videos were made, that they would turn into a teaching tool. It was only afterward that someone saw a way to cash in. I also hope it is Hale’s family who is reaping the rewards.

    I never took a dime for my time. And, as anyone can clearly see, I also didn’t know much about making a video. That was my first and last camera job. The video camera and recorder(a Sony reel-to-reel black and white VTR) were bought for the sole purpose of the video and are probably still sitting somewhere, collecting dust, in the basement of the Art Students League.

    Hale was a rock star. Everyone loved him. I always admired the fact there was always two or three young pretty girls at his side, keeping him steady, as he walked about the school.

  3. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks, Tom.

    As much as I wish the video record of Hale speaking was more readily available, in light of the prices being charged for access to the videos, I have to recommend that those interested in Hale’s teaching start with the books in which notes from his lectures are matched with old master images.

  4. Tom Hall

    Hi Charley,

    Sorry about the ‘rock star comment’. I’m getting old and starting to repeat myself.

    Maybe someday Terry Coyle and wife Jo-An will change their minds and put the videos up on YouTube.

  5. Charley Parker Post author

    I don’t think we have a specific accolade for brilliant Lecturers in Anatomy, so Rock Star may have to do (grin).

    Having the videos available for everyone, or even for a reasonable cost, would be nice; but I’m not holding my breath.

  6. Elin Anderson

    I’m a student right now and was surprised to find all ten VHS tapes at my college and I’ve been watching them every day. It’s true that Hale is old in them but I find his transatlantic accent and little amusing anecdotes to be cute. A search in Worldcat.org reveals that there are at least 160 libraries across the country that own these VHS tapes and if you are a student you may be able to get them for free through interlibrary loan. If there isn’t a library near you that owns them, Here’s an idea: you could enroll in one class at your local community college and use interlibrary loan to have them sent to you.

  7. Ken Crocker

    It looks like no one is reading this thread anymore, but I had to put in my two cents. I don’t agree at all that Robert Hale was old and senile when the videos were made. I have made audio files of all ten lectures and listen to them over and over in my car. Hale makes his points very well. To me the real thrust of the lectures is not the anatomy at all, but his analysis of the classic approach to drawing the figure. Yes, he does go through a description of the artistic anatomy of the figure, which is very useful, but while he’s doing that, he’s repeating again and again how to approach drawing the figure, which after it finally sank in, I found even more important. I agree the tapes are overpriced, especially given the poor quality. It’s hard to understand why this is so if Jo-Ann is really the wife of Terence Coyle, who did so much to make the Hale books available. It’s really too bad that with the video techniques available today, someone doesn’t enhance the lectures and put them on reasonably-priced DVDs.

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