A Study of Fat over Lean


A Lean Señor El Greco and a Fat (ish) Mister Turner

Non-Scientific Look at Body Types
and Their Influences on Art

By: Prof. Gulley Jimson, RA, Ph.D., AFT, RCA, PADI

This brief summary of a non-scientific study of Fat over Lean, as reflected in the paintings of fat (obese is a kinder term) artists compared to those of lean artists, asks the question: did their fatness (sorry, obesity) or leanness affect their work? While reading this, think of Turner and El Greco, who could be seen as the Laurel and Hardy of the art world, except that they did not live in the same era.

First the study had to determine the parameters: How fat is fat? (Or obese, or rotund, or portly?) Likewise, how lean is lean? (Or skinny, scrawny, or slender?)

If fasting means to not eat,
then why is fast food so popular?
~ Bill Jerdon

The research somewhat points to a correlation: fat artists prefer square or tondo shapes, while the skinny artists are more prone to long and narrow. This study is ongoing and will need to be revisited at a later time to allow for those artists who, as they age, lose weight and the lean ones who tend to gain weight. There may be an economic correlation at work as well, but that has not as yet been proven.


A Lean Painting by Señor El Greco and a Rather Tondo Painting by Mister Turner

As the examples above show, it appears that the randomly selected artists in question have subconsciously expressed their preferences for personal body type in their painting style.

In all fairness to Mr. Turner, he was mainly a landscape painter, and an extraordinary one at that. Which brings us to the question: Why does the so-called Turner Prize not focus on traditional landscapes? Perhaps it might be more appropriate to call it the “Anything Goes Prize.” That would be much more in keeping with the actual styles, quality of the work, and subject matter currently being selected for the prize.

Be that as it may, the next time you visit a museum or gallery exhibit, you may want to assess for yourself whether or not the artworks exhibited were at all influenced by the artist’s body type, and perhaps even their dietary habits. Do the works appear carnivorous? Vegan? Macrobiotic? (The latter certainly describes some of the entries for recent Turner Prizes.) After all, we are what we eat. Is not then the artist’s work also the product of that diet?

We’ll let you decide.

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