Figurative Art: The Linear Depiction of Figures Through Sculptures and Paintings

Featured image of figurative art

The curves of a human body, the fierce eyes, and the hand postures that look almost surreal!

An art form that has helped in shaping the portrayal of humans and living beings in the art world.

This is exactly what figurative art talks about.

Don’t confuse this with realism, as both concepts may sound similar but differ from each other.

Figurative art is both what-realistic and semi-abstract representational art are.

It conveys and represents the elements of real life via paintings, sculptures, and other forms of art.

In this blog, we will learn about how figurative art has helped shape the portrayal of humans and living beings in the art world. 

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Also, we’ll learn about its different techniques and how it became one of a kind art form.

What is Figurative art?

A figurative artwork by Pablo Picasso
Image Source: Tate

When the concept of figurative art comes to mind, the only thing that strikes is figures and lines.

But do you know exactly what figurative is? It’s nothing but a form of representation. 

That is the reason figurative art is also known as representational art.

To go with the traditional definition, representational art, or art that draws inspiration from actual objects or sources, is referred to as “figurative art.”

Figurative art is not only limited to paintings but also sculptures and other artwork that portrays real-life scenes, objects, and human or animal figures.

If we dig a bit deeper into the concept of figurative art, then we can explain that it is a form of art that captures the beauty of real-world.

Not only beauty, but also the flaws and imperfections that a living being might be carrying with it.

Figurative artworks also caters to a variety of subcategories of art periods, such as Renaissance, Baroque, Realism, etc.

Figurative art as a whole concept revolves around the projection and portrayal of living beings and real-life scenes.

Let us read further about the same.

Elements of Figurative Art

An artwork that represents the elements of figurative art
Image Source: imagekit

To get a hold of figurative art in depth, it is necessary to understand all the elements that combine together to create this concept of art.

Artists of figurative art would use some of the basic-most yet ravishing formal elements that would uplift the beauty of their artworks.

The elements that were used to give the artworks some really beautiful effects through designs were lines, shapes, colors, light, volume, texture, etc.

It might be figured that they were the traditional elements that were used to create, but there’s no lie in the fact that they gave an artwork a whole different look.

It was only because of these elements that artists were able to create visually appealing depictions of human figures.

The concept of line, shapes, and mass is prominently used in the form of baroque art as well.

Every element combined in figurative art depicts the human figures cohesively and caters to the concepts of living beings’ representation in art.

Also Read: Famous Baroque Paintings

Rise Of Figurative Art

An artwork that represents the rise of figurative art
Image Source: artmatcher

Figurative art has experienced a rise in the history of art, unlike any other form of art.

This specific art form has witnessed a phenomenal journey from being one of the art forms that caters to a variety of art forms under its spectrum to an inspiration.

When you see the artworks of figurative art, you will notice an ever-lasting pattern of the usage of human figures.

It was when idealized human body forms, which were also seen in Greek and Roman sculptures, were claimed to be the origins of figurative art. 

More realistic figures were created during the Renaissance era by artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, who carried on this tradition of figures. 

Not only realism but also abstraction became more prevalent in the 20th century, and human form elements became common and were frequently used in art.

Artists like Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, and Alberto Giacometti used the forms of figurative expression very intrusively. 

The rise of figurative art impacted a lot more artists of the new era and the modern era for ages.

Figurative art also acted as a prime source of inspiration for some of the most famous contemporary artists.

Suggested Read: Art Deco artists

Types Of Figurative Art

Types of figurative art represented by two of the famous artworks
Image Source: Realism Today and Artfactory

Looking into the depths of any art form requires patience and knowledge about that specific art.

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Now that we have a hold of what figurative art actually is, we can now move forward with the types of figurative art.

As the word itself defines its possibilities of being portrayed, figurative art is of two kinds, sculptures and paintings.

During the time of Greek and Roman mythology, sculpting was one of the most prominent ways of depicting the subject.

Slowly, when the colors started stepping in and artists started learning about the effects of colors via wall paintings, they started to create figurative paintings.

To add more depth to the types, let me tell you that sculpting is more material based and painting is more surface based.

Furthermore, sculpting uses different materials, such as stone, wood, or metal and it is created in a three-dimensional manner.

Whereas paintings are based on surfaces, different oils and pigments are used to portray the subject matter in a two-dimensional way.

So, either way, both kinds of figurative art are widely known and praised in the art world.

Famous Figurative Artists

There were many artists from history who contributed to the creation of some of the famous figurative artworks.

Some of them are from the Renaissance art period, the Roman art period, and also modern art.

Many notable artists have contributed to the establishment of figurative art.

Artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Giotti, Francis Bacon, etc. have laid the stepping stones for figurative art to grow and influence artists around the globe.

So, let us read about some of the famously known modern artists who used figurative art to express their art.

1. Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso and one of his famous artwork
Image Source: Wikipedia

When talking about art, how can we even not mention Pablo Picasso?

A man who was known for experimenting with his art and was known to express emotions via his art.

He was one of the most famous artists of the 20th century.

Known to experiment with various techniques and styles of art, Picasso played a huge role in periods like cubism, surrealism, etc.

He created many figurative artworks in his career, but “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” and “Guernica” remain the most renowned among them.

2. Michelangelo

Famous artist Michelangelo
Image Source: Wikipedia

One of the most famous Renaissance artists was Michelangelo, who played an important role in the establishment of figures in art.

He was the man who made his mark in the depiction of subjects in the most realistic way.

Not only was he a famous painter, but he was also a sculptor.

Paintings by Michelangelo have made their way to some of the most holy chapels and museums in the world.

His famous sculptor, who explains the concept of figurative art, is David.

3. Vincent Van Gogh

Famous figurative artist vincent Van Gogh and his famous artwork the potato eaters
Image Source: Wikipedia

An artist who was known for the use of brighter and more vivid colors in his paintings but lived a sad life.

The artist was none other than Vincent Van Gogh.

Now you may wonder how Van Gogh was a figurative artist. 

Well, his paintings, like Cafe Terrace at Night, The Potato , Starry Night, etc. all have a very prominent use of figures and lines.

These paintings by Van Gogh represent the hustle and bustle of daily life and appear in a very realistic way.


Whether it be any form of art, an artist’s depiction and the viewer’s perspective are what matter most.

Even some of the realistic paintings are wrongly understood, but when you learn about them in depth, it decodes the real deal.

The most praised form of representational art is figurative art, which portrays life in a linear and dimensional manner.

Figurative art is not only the depiction of life or humans; it also demonstrates animals, real life scenarios, and other subject matters.

Through the Renaissance and the modern era of art, figurative art remained constant and well-known.

With this, we come to the conclusion that figurative art is a form of representing what life is through the lens of an artist.

I hope that you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I did while writing it.

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Q1. Define figurative art in short.

The term “figurative art” refers to representational art, which is art that takes inspiration from actual objects or sources.

Q2. What are the subjects of figurative art?

The prime subjects of figurative art are places, objects or people.

Q3. Why is the art form called ‘figurative’?

Figurative art forms use the term figurative because of their literal meaning, which is metaphorical. Or, it is also known as simile art.

Q4. Name some of the famous figurative artists.

Some of the famous figurative artists are: Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Giotto, etc.

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