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Figural, or figurative painting has been around since the days of Paleolithic cave painting. Egyptian artists later represented figures by combining a side profile of the face with front-facing eye with front-facing torso and the legs back in profile. The Greeks and Romans celebrated idealized human form in sculpture.
In the Gothic period, religious figures such as the holy family were represented in art. The figures were flattened and solemn. In the Northern and Italian Renaissance, artists celebrated humanity. They showed the holy family as deeply emotive beings grounded in this world, wearing Renaissance fashions. These artists found inspiration in the ancient Romans.
In the 19th century, artists sought to paint the reality of life, but styles also became flatter and more abstracted. In the 20th century, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque made finding the represented person among geometry a game. The Constructivists and later the Abstract Expressionists celebrated geometry, form, color, and gesture.
Leonard Lauder assembled a first-rate collection of cubist paintings by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, and Fernand Léger; He donated the collection, an essential primer on cubism, to the MET
In the 1980s, Lower East Side artist Martin Wong painted in a figurative style. Wong responded to the Tianmen Square tragedy with "Liberty Mourning the Death of Her Sister - Beijing," 1989, which sold for $161,000 at Doyle New York on May 12, 2015
Contemporary artist John Currin has brought figurative painting fully into the present with his sexy images imbued with contemporary themes and smart art historical references. His "The Collaborator," 2010, sold for $3.5 million at Christie’s New York on May 11, 2015