The World New Made: Figurative Painting in the Twentieth Century by Thames&Hudson

One of the most significant titles to examine figurative painting is The World New Made: Figurative Painting in the Twentieth Century by Thames&Hudson.

Writer and artist Timothy Hyman explores non-abstract painting through the lens of artists such as Fernand Léger, Alice Neel, Henri Matisse, Balthus, Frida Kahlo, Charlotte Salomon and Jacob Lawrence among many other luminaries, contextualised by historical and political facts.

Timothy Hyman was elected Royal Academician in 2011 and is an honorary research fellow at University College London. He was exhibited widely and his work is in many collections, including The British Museum and LACMA. He was lead curator of Tate’s major Stanley Spencer retrospective exhibition.

“Abstract painting was just one of the ways by which, in the face of existential uncertainty, artists renewed pictorial language. In this book, I will be concentrating on those twentieth-century painters who took a contrary path, towards a new kind of figuration.” Hyman states in his brilliant introduction. The book doesn’t disappoint.

The World New Made is a celebration of more than 50 painters, all testifying to their ‘resistance’ within each prevailing cultural tyranny. In words as well as pictures they give a vivid sense of what it felt like to be at best unregarded, and at worst persecuted.

This fantastic title traces the significance, legacy and magnitude of figuration according to several evocative and intelligent chapters including “First Person Painting”, “Beyond the Formalist Canon”, “After Abstract Expressionism: Towards a New History Painting”. This richly-illustrated book features important texts, quotes and literature by the artists themselves which provide enlightening understandings on the alternative of Abstract or Conceptual art, and other non- dominant canons of modern art.

Structured not as a survey but as in-depth studies of more than 130 specific artworks, The World New Made contextualizes art history like no other books.

“Perhaps this book is best understood as the history of a collective retrieval. All across the world, isolated artists found an idiom for human-centred painting in the midst of modern life. Both anthology and hagiology, my book sets out to assemble those free spirits. Together they offer a counter-argument to Western Formalism, as well as a promise, and even a foundation, for the figurative painters of the twenty-first century.” Hyman concludes.