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Figurative Art... Definition And Examples.

In November 2018, scientists reported the discovery of the oldest known figurative art painting, over 40,000 (perhaps as old as 52,000) years old, of an unknown animal, in the cave of Lubang Jeriji Saléh on the Indonesian island of Borneo.

What Is Figurative Art?

The term Figurative paintings, or figurativism, describes paintings that is clearly derived from real object sources and so is, by definition, representational.

Whilst, the term "Abstract paintings" is used for non-representational art and non-objective art, i.e. art which has no derivation from figures or objects, The term "Figurative paintings" has been used to refer to any form of modern art that retains strong references to the real world.

Figurative art is not synonymous with figure painting (art that represents the human figure), although human and animal figures are frequent subjects.

Figurative art deploys line, shape, color, light and dark, mass, volume, texture, and perspective to create an impression or illusion of form and space, and, usually, to create emphasis in the narrative portrayed.

From the early Renaissance, Mannerism and the Baroque through 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century painting Figurative art has steadily broadened its parameters.

The Sleeping Venus...A Figurative Painting By Giorgione

One of the remarkable beginnings of figurative art is the first known reclining nude in Western painting in Sleeping Venus (1510) by Giorgione. It introduced the female nude as subject and started a long line of famous paintings.

Giorgione, Sleeping Venus
Giorgione, Sleeping Venus 1510.

The "The Sleeping Venus" painting portrays a nude woman whose profile seems to echo the rolling contours of the hills in the background. It is the first known reclining nude in Western painting.

"The Sleeping Venus" or the Dresden Venus, is a painting traditionally attributed to the Italian Renaissance painter Giorgione, "The Sleeping Venus" is in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden. After World War II, the painting was briefly in possession of the Soviet Union.

Although it has long been usually thought that Titian completed it after Giorgione's death in 1510. The landscape and sky are generally accepted to be mainly by Titian. In the 21st century, much scholarly opinion has shifted further, to see the nude figure of Venus as also painted by Titian, leaving Giorgione's contribution uncertain.

A single nude woman in any position was an unusual subject for a large figurative painting at this date, although it was to become popular for centuries afterwards, as "the reclining female nude became a distinctive feature of Venetian figurative paintings.

In the background of the Sleeping Venus, the landscape adds to the aesthetics of the curves of the woman's body and emphasizes the natural, organic theme. Furthermore, erotic implications are made by Venus's placement of her left hand on her groin.

There was originally a sitting figure of Cupid beside Venus's feet, which was over-painted in the 19th century.

Giorgione, the Italian painter of the Venetian school during the High Renaissance who sometimes was named as Zorzo, died in his thirties, and only about six surviving paintings are firmly attributed to him, successfully depicted The Sleeping Venus with a romantic charm from the Venetian life of his time and an influential composition.

The influence of the composition of this figurative painting can be traced in a number of later reclining nudes such as the Pardo Venus and Venus of Urbino of Titian, the Rokeby Venus of Velázquez, Goya's teasing La maja desnuda, and Olympia by Manet, and other works by Ingres and Rubens, to name but a few.

The Sleeping Venus painting was described by Marcantonio Michiel (1484–1552), the Venetian noble who was interested in matters of art, in the collection of Girolamo Marcello, Marcello married in 1507, and it has been suggested that he commissioned the painting to celebrate this.

Together with his younger contemporary Titian, Giorgione founded the Venetian school of Italian Renaissance painting, characterized by its use of color and mood. Giorgione died of the plague then raging, on the 17th of September 1510.

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