This article is about figurative painting and the identification of its typologies. It is necessary, however, to reflect previously on what is figurative painting and figurative art in general.
Cover image: Gustave Courbet Self-portrait (The Desperate Man), c. 1843–45, Private collection
what is figurative painting
The great distinction between figurative art and non-figurative art consists in recognition. “Figurative” is used to designate the artistic manifestations that represent the human form or the elements of the nature and the objects.
However the concept must not be confused with realism or even with likeness. Those art works that seek an approximate identity of the real in terms of shapes and colors are considered as a work of figurative art. We also consider as a work of figurative art those that represent stylized or diluted forms. For example most of the works of the Impressionist, Post Impressionist and Expressionist movements.
We hope to have contributed to a reflection about figurative painting but, like all concepts, this one consists in a way of "arrangement" to better develop the exercises of analysis of works of art.
Let’s identify the most frequent themes in figurative painting.
Text by Yolanda Silva.
Contains an explanatory video.
You can know about this and many other indispensable aspects for reading and interpreting works of art in the online course Analysing Art.
One of the considerations to bear in mind when we look at a painting is the identification of its contents. We can designate a figurative painting according to the predominant theme, and also identify secondary topics.
What are the different types of figurative painting ?
The function of a portrait is to represent an individual or group of individuals, so that they are recognized by a specific audience.
Through posture, gestures, clothing, scenery, attributes or secondary figures, usually reveals the identity of the portrayed and the ideal that the artist wants to reveal of his person.
It does not necessarily seek full fidelity to features.
It may be full-body, mid-body or bust, and the subject may be in a frontal, lateral or three-quarters position.
which may be:
- genre (also called petit genre; scenes of everyday life and folk customs);
The figurative painting tells a story through the gestures, postures, facial expressions, attributes or other contents of the portrayed.
It seeks inspiration from various sources such as mythology, religion, society, literature, local customs, etc.
The subject is the landscape.
It is interesting to identify seasons of the year, to observe temporal indications and human activity, to point out the architectural elements present.
The artist can choose to represent the landscape with quicker and summary strokes or to look for detail, with more concentrated or diffused motifs.
The general character of the scene may have an identifiable temperament, symbolic or not: intimate, turbulent, inviting, ...
In figurative painting of landscape this can be real or idealized.
Light, space elements, color scheme, etc. - can contribute to the expressiveness of the landscape.