Exhibition catalogue - The Human Touch. Back cover - illustration of two hands intertwined with soft yellow surround. Front cover - black palm print against pale brown. Brought to you by CuratingCambridge.com

The Human Touch: Making art, leaving traces

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By Elenor Ling, Suzanne Reynolds and Jane Munro.

Touch is our first sense. Through touch we make art, stake a claim to what we own and those we love, express our faith, our belief, our anger. Touch is how we leave our mark and find our place in the world; touch is how we connect. Drawing on works of art spanning 4,000 years and from across the globe, The Human Touch is a journey through the anatomical workings of touch, its creative force, and its emotional power.

In a series of beautifully illustrated essays, the authors explore anatomy and skin; the relationship between the brain, hand, and creativity; touch, desire and possession; ideological touch; reverence and iconoclasm.

The book includes reflections on touch by poet Raymond Antrobus and artist Carmen Mariscal, and a short essay on the image of the hand in politics and Black history by artist Richard Rawlins. Objects range from anonymous ancient Egyptian limestone sculpture to medieval manuscripts and panel paintings, to devotional and spiritual objects from across the world, to love tokens and fede rings. Drawings, paintings, prints and sculpture by Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Carracci, Hogarth, Turner, Rodin, Degas, and Kollwitz are explored, along with work by contemporary artists Judy Chicago, Frank Auerbach, Richard Long, the Chapman Brothers, and Richard Rawlins.

The events of 2020 have made us newly alive to both the value and the dangers of touch, and many of the one hundred and fifty or so objects in the show and this accompanying catalogue have become doubly powerful in the context of the pandemic. This exploration of our most fundamental sense is urgent, timely and resonant.

Elenor Ling is Curator (Paintings, Drawings and Prints) at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Suzanne Reynolds is Curator (Manuscripts and Printed Books) at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Jane Munro is Keeper (Paintings, Drawings and Prints) at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Product details:

  • Hardback, 280 x 240 mm
  • 192 pages
  • 192 illustrations

Dedicated to financially supporting the University of Cambridge Museums, Collections and Botanic Gardens