Artspan Portal: Figurative Painting

Introduction to Figurative Painting

Figurative Painting, though relatively simple as an isolated concept, has taken on a multitude of different forms throughout the history of art and has been interpreted in countless different ways by the artists who have created it. At its core, the term refers to real figure-based representation but, as the body of work in this manner is evidence, the premise of a figure is often the only element that certain figurative paintings have in common with each other.   Each piece functions through a shared iconic vocabulary that allows viewers to connect individually meaningless shapes to familiar subject matter. It is unimportant that a particular physical attribute in the painting be true to life as long as it can be collectively understood by a given symbol. Beyond that, there are virtually no limitations on a figurative painting’s visual possibilities; it has only to succeed in presenting a universally readable image.   Initially, discrepancies between figurative images were rooted in varying levels of technical skill and a long-standing divide between idealization and realism. When photography eventually rendered portraiture obsolete and modern abstraction pushed the limits of expression, this genre of painting began to incorporate more interpretive, individualistic approaches to representation. The human figure has been a central focus in artistic cultures throughout history and today is no different; the urge to record, invent, and manipulate the human image continues to captivate the attentions of artists and inspire the creation of innovative, challenging work.

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Resources: Figurative Painting

Galleries (see all)
Acme Fine Art
Boston, MA
Focus encompasses fauvism, cubism, abstract expressionism, figural expressionism,...
Houston, TX
Figurative paintings by talented contemporary artists.
Austin Figurative Gallery
Austin, TX
Books (see all)
American Figurative Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts
This scholarly volume interprets American taste and aesthetics in the 19th and early 20th...
Art of the Real Nine American Figurative Painters
This book takes a look at none different artists all who focused on realist figurative painting.
Bay Area Figurative Art: 1950-1965
During the 1950s a few painters in the San Francisco Bay Area began to stage personal, dramatic...
Books (see all)
The Figure in Clay: Contemporary Sculpting Techniques by Master Artists
Nine master ceramic artists present their personal approaches to sculpting the human figure in a...
The Artist's Way
Publications (see all)
Modern Painters
The definative international source of news and analysis of contemporary art and culture.
New American Paintings
A vehicle for facilitating contact between artists and art enthusiasts.
Practical Painting
Acts as a point of inspiration for painters through the use of articles and interviews.
Associations (see all)
Figurative Art League
Evanston, IL
Established on the premise that drawing and painting from live models is...
New York Figurative Expressive Work
New York
Loosely knit group of contemporary New York City artists that have created...
The Carlo Pittore Foundation for the Figurative Arts
Brunswick, ME
A non-profit, tax-exempt, private [501(c) (3)] foundation was established to...
Education (see all)
Academy of Art University
San Francisco, Ca
MFA in Fine Arts
The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University
Boston, Ma
MFA in Visual Arts
Clemson University
Clemson, SC
MFA in Visual Arts
Art Suppliers (see all)
Dick Blick Art Materials
Section on Sculpture and Modeling provides a wide variety of products such as clay, modeling...
Art City Studios
Offers a unique combination of resident sculptors and an outstanding selection of raw materials...