Even in the rarefied world of fine art, clichés often hold true.
For instance, the notion of the painter or sculptor in his or her studio, feverishly working, shaping, carving, drawing, with a model striking a specific pose—cliché or no cliché, that very scenario is still one of the realities of making art. The human body, after all, has long been the principal, singular form from which so many artists draw inspiration.
From the very first, LIFE magazine celebrated not only artists and their creations, but their process: drawing, sketching, sculpting, painting and all the other ways that the truly creative among us develop and bring into being their vision of what is, or perhaps what should be. Here, then, a gallery of photographs that pay tribute to the artist at work, and the simple, beautiful, living human form that so often serves as the artist’s most enduringly reliable muse.