What is Figurative Art? A Comprehensive Guide

Figurative art is any work of art that represents images of real life with clarity, most often recognizable depictions of the human or animal form. This type of art includes a variety of subcategories, such as Renaissance, Baroque, Realism, Surrealism, and many more. It is not synonymous with figure painting, although human and animal figures are frequent subjects. Modern figurative art can be considered distinct from modern realism in the sense that it uses modern idioms, while modern realists work in styles that predate post-impressionism.

Examples of this type of art include the figures of cubism painted by Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning, the surrealist sculptures by Alberto Giacometti, and the pop art of Andy Warhol. Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the 1950s and flourished in the 1960s in the United States and Great Britain, drawing inspiration from sources of popular and commercial culture. Figurative art attracted the attention of experts and art enthusiasts after the appearance of figurative painters such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Salle and Anselm Kiefer in the 1980s. Since then, it has been used to refer to any form of modern art that retains strong references to the real world.

The term has been used in particular since the advent of abstract art to refer to artists who preserve aspects of the real world as a subject. Figurative art is also known as representative art since it is a work of art similar to the actual subject itself. Unlike figurative art, abstract art does not attempt to represent a precise representation of a visual reality but rather uses forms, colors, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect. The rise of Jacques-Louis David's neoclassical art eventually generated the realistic reactions of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet that led to the multifaceted figurative art of the 20th century.

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