For centuries artists have been portraying and interpreting the human form in a multitude of ways. Since the Renaissance, figure drawing has served as the foundation of training, a crucial preliminary step in the process of producing a painting or sculpture.

Figurative drawing and painting today extends well beyond the historical practice of drawing from life, as there are a multitude of artists who explore and challenge prevailing ideas on what figurative art can and should be. The variety of approaches to figurative art has been evolving since the early 20th century, and the artists below are just a few of our favorite examples of how experimental and wide-ranging figurative work can be.   

Alice Neel

Self Portrait, 1980

Explore the life and work of one of the leading figurative artists of the 20th century - the self-proclaimed "collector of souls"

Listen to a podcast episode (from our favorite series Recording Artists) about Neel.

Amy Sherald

Precious Jewels by the Sea, 2019

Watch a video of Sherald in her studio 

Read a fascinating New Yorker article on Sherald

Kehinde Wiley

Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005

Watch a short video produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art where Wiley discusses the work of John Singer Sargent 

Watch Wiley on the Trevor Noah Show