The living picture, the tableau historique, the pose plastique, the pregnant moment, the costumed tableau and the film still are just some of the colloquial phrases that have been used over the years to describe tableau vivant.
The word tableau is defined by The Oxford English Dictionary as, “a picture; a picturesque or graphic description,” and the word “vivant” is derived from the Latin word meaning “living.” Furthermore, a related variation on the word “vivant” is vivarium, a noun that refers to a place used for scientific study.  It is interesting to think of a third agency in this relationship being a kind of live study.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the phrase “tableau vivant” as, “a representation of a personage, character, scene, incident, etc., or of a well-known painting or statue, by one person or a group of persons in suitable costumes and attitudes, silent and motionless.”  Historically, “tableaux vivants denoted figures posed, silent and immobile, for twenty or thirty seconds, in imitation of well-known works of art or dramatic scenes from history and literature.”
Painting is about the world that we live in. Black men live in the world. My choice is to include them. This is my way of saying yes to us.
Historically, the role of portraiture has been not only to create a likeness but also to communicate ideas about the subject’s status, wealth, and power. During the eighteenth century, for example, major patrons from the church and the aristocracy commissioned portraits in part to signify their importance in society. This portrait imitates the posture of the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte in Jacques-Louis David’s painting Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernard. Wiley transforms the traditional equestrian portrait by substituting an anonymous young Black man dressed in contemporary clothing for the figure of Napoleon. The artist thereby confronts and critiques historical traditions that do not thereby confronts and critiques historical traditions that do not acknowledge Black cultural experience. Wiley presents a new brand of portraiture that redefines and affirms Black identity and simultaneously questions of the history of Western painting.
From costumes to posture students must study the images to the smallest detail in order to recreate them
Digital retouching is a tool but not a substitute. Students are allowed to retouch light and colour as well as do some image cropping, but they are not allowed to replace fundamental elements of the background.
It’s interesting to observe the differences between a painting and a photograph. Students often find that poses that look very natural in a painting can be hard ro recreate in real life.
No matter how much digital retouching is done to the image, it is really important to get the poses and proper lighting correct since the start in order to obtain good results.
Sometimes students will choose not to use digital retouching at all, such as this case, where the brave students created everything by hand, hand-painting the costume, face, and more.
To create a Tableau Vivant this week:
Upload your chosen photo to your blog: In your blogs, upload the photo of the painting you plan on imitating for the tableau vivant. This will be your before photo, so make sure it is clear and large.
Identify the important details: Look carefully at each of the characters in the painting and describe the following details, then write these details down in your blog underneath the photo:
• Clothing (colors, texture, whether it seems fancy or plain, etc.)
• Pose (the way the body is positioned)
• Facial expression
• Other details (what the person is holding or carrying, what surrounds the person, his or her relationship to others in the work of art, and so on)