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sculptor Jen Pratt

What is Representational Art? Non-Representational Art? A Brief Introduction.

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How would you categorize these artworks?

Representational art definition: artworks made by accurately recreating real objects in an artistic medium, such as painting or sculpture. These artworks have a strong visual relation to reality and “represent” a specific person, object, location, etc. Even if the artwork depicts a person or place of fiction, or is symbolic in nature, the work is still representational.

The “tree” artworks presented here would all fall under the umbrella of representational art, as they all, in some way, resemble objects that we can identify.  However, they could be classified further into differing categories.


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Modern Farmhouse Decor and Unique Art Gifts: Horse Sculpture "Dapple" by Artist Jen Pratt - Horse Art, Handmade Fine Art Sculptures

What is Representational Art: Four Main Types

The four main types of representational art include Realism, Impressionism, Idealism, and Stylization:

  • Realism: there are many styles under the classification of realism, including photorealism, hyper-realism, metarealism, surrealism, and so much more.  Many of my artworks span somewhere between hyper-realism and metarealism, as they have hints of exaggeration, spiritualism, and other idealized aspects that pull them away from pure realism.
    • Photorealism:  Artists attempt exact copies of photographed images in their medium of choice.
    • Hyper-realism or Hyperrealism:  Exaggerated features and unnatural settings.
    • Metarealism:  Art with a spiritual, supernatural, or technological quality.
    • Surrealism:  Dream-like settings.
  • Impressionism: a style of painting developed in France during the mid-to-late 19th century.  Characteristics of this style include small, visible brushstrokes that offer the impression of form; unblended colors; and an emphasis on the realistic depiction of natural light.
  • Idealism: encourages imagination, focuses on bringing to life a mental conception of beauty. Rather than focusing on the everyday and the mundane of typical realism, it focuses on a standard of perfection.
  • Stylization: a depiction representing an object, but without a full attempt at accurately representing the object’s true appearance. Simplifications in pattern, shape, color, lines, surface details, functionality, and relationship to other objects in a scene.

Examples of Representational Art:

Looking at my artworks again, you’ll see hints of surrealism edging close to abstract in the first artwork, some hyper-realism in the second, and a mix of metarealism and surrealism in the third artwork:

Small drawings and paintings: ACEO cards and art cards: Abstract Watercolor Tree Art 3

This tree art by Jen Pratt is a mix of abstract and surrealism

This tree art by Jen Pratt is an example of hyper-realism

This tree art by Jen Pratt is a mix of metarealism and surrealism

What is Non-Representational Art?

Non-representational art definition (nonrepresentational art, non representational art definition): While most art is based on imagery and elements taken from the real world, some forms of art demonstrate an increasingly distant relationship to the visible world and are labeled as non-representational art. This type of art is often referred to as abstract art, though some abstract art is still considered representational if the subject is easily discernible.

  • Abstract: art that doesn’t attempt to represent an accurate depiction of visual reality, but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures.  Abstract artists use a variety of techniques to create their work, mixing traditional media with experimental ideas and materials.
    • Most abstract art is based on imagery from the real world, making it representational in nature. Some abstract art is not connected to the visible world and is known as non-representational.

There’s a lot more to non-representational art then you’ll see in this brief overview of representational and non-representational styles of art.  I work only in representational art so don’t have any of my own artworks to show, but some examples of non-representational art includes works from Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kadinsky, and other artists.

Synonyms for Representational and Non-Representational Art

  • Figurative art: any form of modern art that has a strong visual reference to real world objects or places, in particular to the human figure. Figurative art is also known as representational or objective art.
  • Non-Figurative art: not representing actual objects or realities; abstract.  Non-Figurative art is also known as non-representational or non-objective art.

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