Figurative Art Painting


Figurative art is believed to have originated in congruence with Abstract art during the 20th Century. It is a complex and vast categorization of art, holding many different art movements in the (figurative) palm of its hand.


Figurative art can be defined as any type of art where the subject matter is recognizable from the real world, i.e., it shares a “likeness”.


There is an interconnection between the two types of art categories rendering them not “mutually exclusive” from the other.

abstraction vs figurative

If we look at Figurative art in the context of the 20th century or Modern art, around the time Abstract art became more prominent as an intentional art style, it gains a different meaning.

famous examples of figurative artworks

Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ) (c. 1304 - 1306)  Giotto

The Arnolfini Portrait  (1434) Jan van Eyck

Mona Lisa  (c. 1503 - 1506) Leonardo da Vinci

Judith Beheading Holofernes (1611 - 1612) Artemisa de Gentileschi

new figurative

There was a move away from the almost “perfect” and symmetrical representations to an imperfectly perfect representation of life.

new figurative

In Post-Impressionism paintings, artists painted more figurative abstract art that expressed the ideals of the artist and how they saw the subject matter.

new figurative

Paul Cézanne’s The Large Bathers (1900 - 1906) is another fine example of the move from symmetrical and realistic depictions of the nude figure to a more abstracted and expressive rendering.

new figurative

Other contemporary figurative painters include the Kenyan Michael Armitage, who paints colorful and expressive renderings of figures and events based in East Africa.

go figure

There is a lot of overlap when it comes to Figurative art and Abstract art, as it is a comingling of concepts. The figure has long been a staple subject matter in art, and artists have experimented, and continue to do so.