Blanket term for art that represents some aspect of reality, in a more or less straightforward way

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  • Algernon Newton, 'The Surrey Canal, Camberwell' 1935

    Algernon Newton
    The Surrey Canal, Camberwell 1935
    Oil on canvas
    support: 718 x 914 mm frame: 860 x 1062 x 85 mm
    Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1940 Tate

    View the main page for this artwork

  • Sir Stanley Spencer, 'Turkeys' 1925

    Sir Stanley Spencer
    Turkeys 1925
    Oil on canvas
    support: 508 x 762 mm frame: 703 x 953 x 100 mm
    Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1935 Estate of Stanley Spencer

    View the main page for this artwork

  • John Wonnacott, 'The Norwich School of Art' 1982-4

    John Wonnacott
    The Norwich School of Art 1982-4
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1935 x 2648 mm
    Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1984 John Wonnacott

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The term seems to have come into use after the rise of modern art and particularly abstract art as a means of referring to art not substantially touched by modern developments. Not quite the same as figurative art which seems to apply to modern art in which the elements of reality, while recognisable, are nevertheless treated in modern ways, as in expressionism for example. The term figurative also implies a particular focus on the human figure.

The term non-representational is frequently used as a synonym for abstract.