Figurative art is art that depicts figures or objects and can be made in any medium and in a variety of styles. It describes works of art, particularly paintings and sculptures that are clearly derived from real-world sources, and are therefore by definition representational. Figurative art is often defined in contrast to abstract art. Abstract art is sometimes used as a synonym for non-figurative art and non-objective art, that is, art that is not derived from figures or objects.

Figurative art: definition

Figurative art refers to any art form that clearly represents an image of the real world. In a general sense, figurative also applies to any art before abstract art. Although the term representational art commonly refers to art that has the human or animal figure as its subject, the term can also be used in the more general sense of distinguishing representational art from abstract art which is a term often used interchangeably with non-representational art. Figurative art has the ability to represent a subject while alluding to intellectual concepts.

Figurative Art: History

Figurative art has a history as long as the history of representation itself. The first example is the carved and sculpted figure of a woman discovered in the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany. Carved from the tusk of a mammoth, the figure is at least 35,000 years old. The cave paintings at Lascaux, France, depict a variety of animals native to the region. These paintings date back 16,000 years. The term has been particularly used since the advent of abstract art to refer to artists who retain aspects of the real world as their subject matter, although in a general sense, figurative also applies retrospectively to any art before abstract art.

Figurative Art: The Different Types

Figurative art includes, still life, architecture, floral, human form, landscape. The formal elements, on which figurative art depends, include line, shape, color, light and dark, mass, volume, texture and perspective. However, it should be noted that these design elements could also play a role in the creation of other types of images such as abstract illustration. The difference is that in representational art, these elements are deployed to create an impression or illusion of form and space and, generally, to provide emphasis in the narrative depicted.