What Are Figurative Arts?

“Figurative art describes any form of modern art that retains strong references to the real world and particularly to the human figure”, that is the description given by the Tate to describe our subject. Figurative Arts is a term that has been applied to a genre of art since the arrival of abstract art. Before then it was not needed to describe art as it was known at the time, because it was commonly and collectively known just as art. Depicting real people, and the real world. In this blog we take a look at the artists and their paintings that have all contributed to the Modern Figurative art of today.

Modern Figurative Arts

The Modern Figurative arts are slightly different to what we would class art as in the past, it is definitely very different Modern Realism. Figurative arts use modern ideas and styles whereas Modern Realists work in a way that dates past those of the Post-impressionism period. Modern Figurative artists work almost in the same way as Expressionists have done since the turn of the century.

Modern Figurative Artists

After around 1920, Picasso is a great example of a modern Figurative artist. And in the world of sculpture, Alberto Giacometti is renowned as a great Figurative sculptor. After WWII ended a flood of Modern Figurative artists appeared, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Eve Shepherd and Mike Southern.

The Best Modern Figurative Paintings

  • George Condo – A Classical Grotesque

This painting is often classed as bizarre, but it has a capacity to intrigue the viewer and be quite captivating. His work can almost be compared to that of Picasso or Goya but turning the subject matter quite differently almost grotesque.

  • Elizabeth Peyton – Portraying Celebrities

Mostly Peyton works with small portraits, she tries to replicate what she sees on her canvas, almost working like a photographer. Her eye for detail is exceptional and she produces paintings as good as work from the classic portrait photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Felix Nadar. Working mostly exclusively with celebrities that include, musicians, painters, member of royal households, fashion icons and designers.

  • Alice Neel – The Honesty of Portraiture

The director at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Mr. Barry Walker once described Alice Neel as one of the 20th century’s greatest portrait artists. Influenced heavily by Expressionism, Neel paints with brutal honesty and shows warts and all glimpse of her subjects. Her work has included friends and family as well as complete strangers, but she had personal demons and these often appeared in her work. Her best known and loved works are the female nudes or indeed even the self-portrait nudes which she painted in her later years. These paintings all exemplify exactly what Modern Figurative art is all about, in some ways close to the classic figurative artists of the past, but somehow radically different.

You cannot doubt for one minute the skill and artistry that has gone into these particularly fine works. The artists of the Modern Figurative art movement have made their statement, and that boldly questions what art is all about, and how it should reflect its subject matter.