As depicted in Caravaggio’s The Conversion of St. Paul, 1600, Paul has sharply defined muscles in his arms, across his shoulders, along his neck and down his torso. Yet do we have a sense that his arms are flailing about or do we see him as frozen in time? He is equipped with muscles with the potential to perform, but he is there to be seen, not to act. He is the hero. While the diagonal foreshortening of the body also contributes to the urgency of the narrative, no motion is implied. If you were to look at Paul five seconds later, would he be in another position? Or the same? Probably, the same.

 

INSERT IN THIS BOX “CARAVAGGIO – St. Paul”

 

 Once photography was invented, artists could observe in these action stills, that muscles are rarely visible when someone walks, twists, turns, or performs most other activities. They realized that movement could be successfully rendered simply through body language and diagonal lines.

 

 

INSERT DOWN HERE, UNDER THE OTHER IMAGE “DEGAS PASTEL OF DANCERS” 

Balla’s Dynamism of Dog on Leash, portrays quick movement and energy even without muscular definition. The multiple limbs, blurred edges, and diagonal sweeping rhythm of the sidewalk parallel observations in photographs taken of people in motion. Degas’ Dancer with a Bouquet, 1878, portrays quick movement and energy even without muscular definition. The blurred edges and diagonal rhythm of the arms and legs of the ballerinas parallel observations in photographs of people in motion. Due to the spontaneity of their poses, and the quickness of our glance, I am tempted to say that Balla’s dog and Degas’ ballerinas are athletes; they are actively and believably engaged in their actions.