John H. Vanderpoel's contribution to art students is a valuable one, because it stresses the importance of a comprehensive treatment of the figure. Vanderpoel's drawings are without equal--beautiful and true to nature, rendered with a discriminating eye; there is no artificial delineation of muscles, stylization of form and pose, or other imposition of anatomical understanding to be found here. Yet, Vanderpoel's impressive understanding of the skeleton and musculature is evidenced in the text and illustrations, where he discusses its influence upon surface form.
In The Human Figure, Vanderpoel analyzes every form on the figure of concern to the artist, from the point of view of the artist--in terms of planar structure, wedging and interlocking of forms, and the play of light and shadow. He points out common mistakes and misconceptions.
The book is not particularly long, but its thoroughness, use of anatomical terminology and occasionally long-winded writing style will surely put off beginners to the subject. Vanderpoel's work is best approached with at least a basic understanding of the bones and muscles, as the author suggests in his introduction. Taken under that condition, there is no other book quite like this one, and Vanderpoel's drawings alone should provide endless instruction to the patient student.