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Male & Female Figurative Painters

Inspiring Figurative Painters


As a student of art, I know that many people paved the way for me to share my creative expressions with the world. Both male and female figurative artists play a major role in my artistic development, and continue to inspire my current works. Here is a list of just a few of my most critical inspirations.

Female Figurative Painters

Georgia O’Keeffe

She is considered the mother of modernism, and a huge trailblazer for women in the arts. In 1946 Georgia O’Keeffe was the first woman artist to have a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. To this day women account for approximately 30% of MoMA New York’s permanent collections.

Alice Neel

Neel exhibited widely in America throughout the 1970s and in 1974 she held a retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. She was regularly invited to lecture on her work and became a role model for supporters of the feminist movement. She was elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (now the American Academy of Arts and Letters), the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in the USA, and received a number of national awards including the International Women's Year Award in 1976 and the National Women's Caucus for Art Award for outstanding achievement in the visual arts in 1979. She died in 1984.

Chloe Wise 

(born 1990) is a Canadian artist based in New York City. She is known for her artworks that take food as a theme. She’s a multi media artist, working in sculpture, drawing, painting and video. Her most notable series is of her feverishly painted figurative compositions. Wise is represented by Almein Reich gallery in Canada.

Amy Sherald 

(born August 30, 1973) is an American painter based in Baltimore, Maryland. She is best known for her portrait paintings. Her choices of subjects look to enlarge the genre of American art historical realism by telling African-American stories within their own tradition. She is well known for using grisaille to portray skin tones in her work as a way of "challenging the concept of color-as-race.” Her style is simplified realism, involving staged photographs of her subjects.

Male Figurative Painters

Jarvis Boyland 

A Tennessee native, Boyland navigates intersections of Black identity through portraiture of Black queer men. Boyland paints broad expanses of rich, modulated color dominate the backgrounds, expertly coordinated with the clothing and fabrics in the paintings.

Hassan Hajjaj

Hajjaj has sometimes been called the “Andy Warhol of Marrakech”, but his work completely stands on its own. The vibrant colors, joyful spirit, and visual rhythm of his images make him a highly sought-after creative artist. Since he grew up in both London and Marrakech, Hajjaj’s work often combines aspects of both cultures in innovative and interesting ways.

Julian Opie

Opie first emerged in the 1980s, creating painted metal sculptures in a minimalistic style. He has never been content to stick with one particular style, however. Over time, Opie has branched into LED light sculptures, portraits with clean lines, and more, often with a light touch of his trademark sense of humor. Whatever Opie does, it usually engages in his obsession with new technology and the human body in fascinating ways.

Kehinde Wiley

Wiley blurs the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation and the critical portrayal of masculinity and physicality as it pertains to the view of black and brown young men. His subjects are dressed in their everyday clothing most of which are based on the notion of far-reaching Western ideals of style, and asked to assume poses found in paintings or sculptures representative of the history of their surroundings, providing a juxtaposition of the “old” inherited by the “new” style of portraiture.

I find appealing and thought-provoking new ideas from these influential artists all the time. Take a look at work by me, Marisa Rheem, and you’ll see how these powerful inspirations from notable figurative painters are reflected in a new and unique voice.

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