Figurative Art: A Brief Introduction
Figurative art is a relatively new term in art. The description applies to paintings with links to the “real world” and human figures.
It first appeared in the early twentieth century and separated figurative art from abstract art. As the opposing artistic approach, abstract art removes paintings from everyday experience and direct representation.
As such, figurative painting covers a massive array of art. Today, we explore this fascinating category and its development through time and some of our most requested reproduction oil paintings.
What is the meaning of figurative art?
The phrase “figurative artwork” appeared after the explosion of abstract art seen in the early twentieth century. It refers to artists focusing on the natural world instead of purely conceptual concerns.
Consequently, figurative painting refers to modern art depicting places and people. It also applies to most art created before the twentieth century, which was usually directly representational.
In modern figurative art, artists like Pablo Picasso exemplify this trend. After the 1920s, Picasso’s artwork focused heavily on figure painting. These mature paintings include famous creations such as The Three Dancers (1925).
Although this painting keeps aspects of cubism and simplified forms, it also depicts “real world” women in an identifiable interior scene.
What is the difference between figurative and abstract art?
Both figurative art and abstract art are two vast categories of artistic creation. They can apply to any artistic medium (for instance, sculpture or video). Most often, though, they refer to painting.
While figurative art focuses on painting things from the natural world, abstract art communicates emotions and ideas. Nonetheless, there’s a considerable cross-over between the two terms.
For instance, figurative artworks can have many elements of abstraction within them. Colors can change, forms can twist, and perspectives can flatten. Nonetheless, it will keep some links with people, scenes, or objects. In this definition, figurative art could include figure painting but also incorporates landscapes and city scenes.
For an abstract artist, even if the inspiration is the “real world,” the painting will focus mainly on emotional and intellectual expression.
What is figurative realism in art?
Figurative realism is a distinct branch of figurative art. It refers to painters who focus on intensely realistic human figures set amongst naturalistic landscapes.
In this definition, the human figure is usually a vital feature. Individual portraits, figure paintings, nudes, or group arrangements are all “figurative realism.”
These works include some of the most famous nude pictures, such as Edouard Manet’s Olympia (1863) and Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538).
Nonetheless, this doesn’t necessarily need to depict identifiable individuals. Works such as Edward Hopper’s Chop Suey are figurative realism as the painting accurately and faithfully represents human forms.
Nonetheless, the viewer is never sure exactly who the individuals are in Hopper’s art. Faces fade, and people’s inner thoughts are purposely ambiguous.
Is figurative a style of painting?
Figurative art is a style of painting. It simply refers to representations of people and places. These elements might be altered or distorted. Even so, figurative painting always has some basis in reality.
In modern times, figurative painting often features semi-abstracted elements, exaggerated colors, and flattened perspectives. The work of Henri Matisse and Les Fauves shows this approach perfectly. While Matisse’s Portrait of Madame Matisse, The Green Stripe (1905) represents a woman, the colors are intense. Her face also appears heavily simplified.
Modern figurative artists such as the American Elmer Bischoff (working in the late twentieth century) continued this bright and vivid style.
Before the twentieth century, however, many portrait painters prided themselves on their realistic attention to detail. Artists such as Jules Joseph Lefebvre (a French figure painter) epitomize this traditional academic approach.
Lefebvre’s works, such as Odalisque and Yvonne The Artist’s Daughter, depict skin, women’s bodies, and elegantly draped fabrics with intense detail.
What is an example of figurative art?
Essentially, any painting showing people or places (in some manner) is figurative art.
Some of the most famous examples of figurative art begin with Renaissance painters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo.
Figurative art continued through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with artists working in the Dutch Golden Age and Baroque styles.
As the nineteenth century progressed, French artists developed artistic approaches. Despite new movements such as Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Pointillism, they still painted the world around them. Gradually, these artworks incorporated more and more abstraction and experimentation with color.
These experiments culminated with the Cubist approach of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. While both artists incorporated geometric forms and abstracted shapes, they still depict identifiable human forms.
In the early twentieth century, however, a new wave of purely abstract artists appeared. Expressive painters such as Wassily Kandinsky and Hilma Af Klint led the way.
Russian constructivist approaches (exemplified by Kazimir Malevich) and American color field painters (such as Mark Rothko) developed these ideas even further.
In the aftermath of these pioneering developments, figurative art contrasted with their purely conceptual creations.
Why is figurative art influential?
Figurative art is influential because it allows artists to express their unique viewpoints on the world. It doesn’t just focus on realistic, photographic representation. Instead, artists creatively communicate their human experience through depictions of the world around us.
Figurative art also requires a great deal of artistic skill. Historically, artists trained by copying the work of the Old Masters. This ensured ability in all aspects of artistic creation, including shape, color, light, line, volume, perspective, and texture.
While these elements can form a crucial part of abstract art, they feature with careful precision in figurative painting.
This focus on natural observation began with intensely detailed classical Greek sculptures. It continued throughout the Renaissance until French Impressionist artists challenged previously accepted artistic ideals. Nonetheless, figurative art endured to the present day, continuing to inspire artists and the public.
Figurative Artwork: Museum-quality oil painting on canvas
If you love the skill and beauty of figurative art, explore our online art gallery of replica paintings. From the classical artwork of Renaissance oil paintings to the modern colorful creations of Vincent Van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso, discover fine art reproductions of the most famous oil paintings of all time.