Figurative Painting


Paintings that represent recognizable things in the visible world, as opposed to abstract painting. The variety of approaches to figurative painting is enormous, and almost as diverse as the history of art itself. The two poles are, essentially, stylistic: Photorealism (like that of Chuck Close) at one extreme, and nearly abstract and unrecognizable figuration (like Pablo Picasso's Analytic Cubism) at the other. While for much of the 20th century figurative painting was largely ignored by the Western avant-garde, the course changed with the 1980s emergence of figurative painters like Anselm Kiefer, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and David Salle; this renewed interest in turn shed light on figurative painters who had long been working in the same vein, from Lucian Freud and Alice Neel to Alex Katz, Gerhard Richter, and countless others. Today, painters like John Currin, Kehinde Wiley, Jenny Saville, and Elizabeth Peyton represent the various approaches to figurative work.