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What is Representational Art?

What is Representational Art?

Representational art refers to art that is recognisable for what it claims to be. It is art that is clearly identifiable as something that already exists in life, such as fruit in still life, a tree in a landscape or a figure in a portrait. The aim of representational art is to represent actual subjects or objects from reality.

Representational art, often referred to as figurative art, may not always be depicted as true to life in position or colour however, it is still recognisable to the observer. There are four types of representational art which fall under subcategories that include idealism, realism, impressionism and stylisation.  

History of Representational Art

Representational art was a significant time in art history and is regarded as an important genre as it was exemplified by some of the first works of art that have been discovered and documented.

Ancient examples of representational art, which date back to the Stone Age between 2,000,000 and 10,000 B.C.E, are seen in the form of sculptures and busts. Depicting real people, scenes from nature and idealised gods. During the Middle Ages, religious subjects took precedence for many European artists.

In the Renaissance period, artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo depicted extraordinarily realistic and intricate sculptures and paintings on ceilings. During this time, many artists were also commissioned to paint portraits of nobility or royalty.

By the 19th century, a new way of expressing representational art was experimented with. Shifting subjects from landscapes, religious subjects and portraits to socially relevant topics centred around the Industrial Revolution.

In the present day, representational art is thriving. Many artists and observers have a greater understanding and ease with representational art than with abstract art.

Famous Representational Artists

For many artists and observers, portraits, landscapes, seascapes and figures have been exemplified throughout the years as representational art, containing imagery that depicts an easily recognisable thing. Some notable works include:

Mona Lisa

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, 1503

Girl with a pearl earring

Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665

Modern Representational Artists

Jordan Casteel
Jordan Casteel, born in 1989 in Denver, Colorado, creates large-scale vivid paintings that depict black males from the various communities she has resided in. She describes herself as hyper-aware of her surroundings that contribute to her art where she enjoys sharing humanistic, sensitive and honest stories of her community.
Jonas Wood
Based in L.A., Jonas Wood creates comic-book style reflections of his daily life as a ‘visual diary’. Known for his playful paintings of objects, places and people that surround him in his flat full of clashing prints, patterns and plants.
Reuben Colley
Reuben Colley is a representational artist. Famously known for his paintings portraying Birmingham's urban landscape, Reuben has captured the evolving cityscape for over 20 years. From his first exhibition in 2001, impressions of Birmingham, Reuben's art has inspired those from Birmingham and beyond.
To view Reuben's most notable works, take a look at his archive or pay us a visit at Colley Ison Gallery

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