For thousands of years, humans have been drawing figures inside caves, church ceilings, and other areas they deemed best. History has ingrained itself in the works of the first men, giving us a glimpse of their way of life.
As humans progressed, art has also seen some advancements. Artists have developed styles and techniques that broke through different art movements, broadening and challenging the definition of art as they explored different theories.
Since the rise of abstract art in the 1940s, the term figurative has applied to all art forms. It has been used to refer to any form of art that bears resemblance to any object in the real world—particularly the human figure.
In contrast with figurative art, abstract art deals with the use of shapes, colors, forms, and gestural marks without attempting to represent reality as an accurate reference.
Figurative art is described as any work of art that retains strong similarity to the objects in the real world. It is often described as “representational” due to its artistic nature of skillfully imitating reality as it is.
Now, let’s take a look 5 of the best figurative artists in the world.
Labeled by The Art Newspaper as “the foremost figurative painter of his generation,” Steven Assael focuses his work on the human figure, individually or as part of a group. Balancing between naturalism and romanticism, he blends his subjects with the surroundings in his paintings and drawings.
Assael was born in New York, New York in 1957 and attended art classes at the Museum of Modern Art at a young age. He then enrolled at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He currently teaches at The School of Visual Arts in New York and at The New York Academy of Art.
Assael is a highly respected artist with countless awards to his name. He is well-known throughout the United States and Canada, offering drawing workshops to other artists. His figurative artworks have been celebrated via solo and group exhibitions across the country.
German artist Dirk Dzimirsky skillfully draws people in a hyper-realistic manner. He is so well-known for his figurative art that it has been mentioned by several websites, showcasing the extreme calculated set of light to create an enigmatic mood of melancholic beauty in his images.
Dzimirsky was born in Rhede, Germany in 1969. He currently lives and works in a former school house in Warmsen, Germany. Exhibitions of his works reached US, Europe, and Tokyo, and his pieces are in countless private collections worldwide.
In 2014, he was a champion for the 21st century figurative art. He was commissioned by Waterman Paris to draw a large scale portrait using their ballpoint pens to introduce their new line of luxury pens. The commissioned work was showcased at exhibitions as well as on billboards and screens throughout the cities of Paris and Tokyo. Within the same year, Dzimirsky was hired by A&E Network for their new TV-Show The Returned, to create 4 designs of some of the main characters, which were then used for advertising the American drama series.
Max Ginsburg has taught drawing and painting at the High School of Art & Design (1960–1982), the School of Visual Arts (1984–2000), and The Art Students League (1997–2000, 2008–present). His exhibits widely portrayed figurative art in commercial galleries, but later have been given attention to at public venues to promote his message on realism in form and content.
For decades, Ginsburg has exquisitely presented a collection of his paintings from 1956 to 2010 on 192 pages of high quality paper. Decades of making contemporary art has made him a prestigious fine artist, a teacher, and illustrator in the world of 21st century figurative art. He conveys his strong feelings towards peace and justice, the chaotic effects of war, and injustices in his paintings.
Golucho is a self-taught artist since he was 12 in Madrid, but later received formal art training. His diverse technique makes it seem as though there are multiple painters within him. He explained that the part of an artist that drives him or her to paint can come from many places, a moment long forgotten, or a memory from childhood. This says a lot about how realism is viewed by diverse perspectives. There’s very little information about his biography as he wants his audience to see his life through his every stroke.
Golucho is one of many Spanish figurative artists in the world. The artist's representation of New Realism depicts unpleasant contemporary realities through the tough look of the artist.
“The problem with realism is that everyone believes that they understand it, they think before a realistic picture that its aim is the mere representation of everyday life. On the other hand, abstraction makes the viewer become humble and say ‘I don’t understand it’ and in that way, by not discovering that picture, they’re closer to the testimony of that work, but when it comes to quickly ‘understanding’ the painting, there is realism. The conclusion is that the viewer stays on the surface of what is represented and this work can be left in mere appearance and in technical ability.”
Golucho was brought to Florence for the first time in 2016 to do his collaboration with TIAC, where he shared his technique and philosophy. He returned to Florence in 2018 to impart a master workshop for international students. The Spanish painter is revered for his emotional, provocative, and masterfully crafted figurative art. But according to him, his artistic technique is a vessel through which he delivers a much deeper message.
Israeli Yigal Ozeri is based in New York and is known for his large-scale cinematic portraits of distinctive subjects with dreamy breathtaking landscapes. “I paint woman in nature,” Ozeri says. His large-scale paintings make use of a photorealism style and are based on videos and photographs. Pre-Raphaelite fantasy is Ozeri’s infused art movement. His work is undeniably swimming in imagination and ethereality.
His female protagonists and other subjects are often pensive and dreamy, and seemingly merge with their natural surroundings. Lizzie Jagger—daughter of rock icon Sir[A1] Mick Jagger—was one of the female protagonists exhibited in a series from 2010. Lizzie is seen in wintry Central Park, New York. Ozeri gives attention to her candid chestnut hair, strand by strand, her clothing’s rich texture complemented by the kind sunlight.
His 21st century figurative art is known for the presence of sensual and subconscious femininity in his highly contemporary work. The works convey the spirit of his subjects, giving way to an enticing power. As a result, the viewer is compelled to gaze into the slow-motion-like cinematic moment between reality and fantasy.
These artists fulfill—and even redefine—figurative art from the years then, to the years to come. If you find another artist who practices the same art style, it’s possible to see distinguishable elements and techniques as there will always be different ways of seeing the realities of the world. But essentially, figurative art remains true to its trait of showing authenticity with an unforgiving heart.