We understand by figurative art one whose representations tend to be identifiable objects and recognizable images, contrary to what is pursued by the abstract art. For instance: portraits, landscaping, surrealism. This is not necessarily a form of realism, since verisimilitude is only one of the representation strategies of figures, idealization, schematism, caricaturing, symbolism or any perspective that does not alter the ability to recognize the figures is also possible. the figures represented.
This classification is frequent in the pictorial art and sculpture, including decorative and visual arts, such as film or photography; but programmatic music and figurative literature are also often spoken of as equivalents in other mediums of artistic expression.
There are no figurative arts per se, nor a clear boundary between the figurative and the abstract. Instead it can be spoken of trends more or less figurative, or more or less abstract.
Examples of figurative art
- Pictures. Both pictorial, photographic or sculptural, the specific representations of historical or famous individuals, even of imaginary or mythological characters, usually prefer the figurative.
- Landscaping. The tendency to capture in paintings or photographs the beauty or complexity of the landscape requires the recognition of its individual elements and the overall panorama.
- Still lifes or still lifes. Representations of inanimate objects or even small human dispositions, which explore their joint beauty: their colors, their shapes, etc.
- Caricatures and cartoon art. For the most part, sequential art and comics require clearly identifiable elements to establish their causal relationships, of movement or of whatever nature. That doesn’t mean there can’t be forays into abstractionism or less figurative comic book trends, for example.
- Classicism. Painting and sculpture devoted numerous efforts to the representation of the Greco-Latin imaginary and its various mythological stories, for which a clear understanding of the various entities involved is essential.
- Realism. Both in its pictorial, sculptural and photographic aspects, realism has as its goal the mimesis of the real. In that sense, it fulfills a certain desire for visual verisimilitude that is incompatible in principle with the idea of the abstract.
- Illustrations. The visual accompaniments of books and other works are usually figurative, since they carry the same meaning and the same story.
- The grotesque. In his endeavor to highlight the ugliness and the most ominous details of the painted or sculpted figures, the grotesque works in the realm of what is necessarily figurative, since otherwise there would be no way to elicit the desired effect.
- Documentalism. This filmic variant starts, even in its avant-garde bets, from a commitment to the viewer to recreate a part of reality, even if it is speculation or documentary. In all cases, it can be considered figurative art.
- Protest muralism. This aspect of painting, which seeks public surfaces to paint daily scenes of social content, is necessarily figurative in its desire to represent the oppressed sectors.
- Ancient art. Due to its close link with the religious and the mythical, most of the ancient forms of sculpture and painting (Egyptian, Greco-Latin, Babylonian, Assyrian, etc.) responded to rigid canons of representation, which make them of a figurative tendency.
- Expressionism. Born in Germany, Expressionism proposed in painting, sculpture and cinema the exaltation of feelings and sensations, and this search led him to the frontiers of figurativeism, to flirt with only a certain abstraction.
- Impressionism. The so-called school of light, whose brief strokes reveal a complete scene from afar, did not for this reason move away from figurativeism, since its main object of study was the landscape and the effects of light on it.
- Cubism. Cubism can be considered as one of the artistic aspects that begin the transition towards abstract art, abandoning the strict canons of credible representation and undertaking an avant-garde aesthetic search.
- Surrealism. Another of the movements that paved the way for abstract art, surrealism in painting and sculpture, abandoned the commitment to observable reality to investigate the forms of the unconscious and dreams, without ceasing to be figurative at all.
- Paintings. The first attempts at art or representation, whose content seems to point to hunting scenes, are figurative in their desire to imitate or record what happened.
- Medieval religious art. Both in its Catholic, Jewish or Islamic variants (although in the latter the representation of God is prohibited), as in those from the Far East, he specified the figurative to bring the idea of God closer to his faithful.
- Animalistic. Art focused on the representation of animal figures, which tends to prefer the figurative.
- The architecture. Although it is difficult to define it in either of the two categories, architecture played a vital role in painting as a model of representation, and in that sense, by becoming a reference, it had to be imitated as a figure.
- The photo report. Photographic chronicle, visual or photo-documentary narration, the use of the photographic camera and the artistic eye to account for the real world must, necessarily, be recognizable and therefore figurative.