The national focal point for contemporary figurative art, and home to the Federation of British Artists.

Who is The Federation of British Artists?

The Federation of British Artists, a major visual arts charity established in 1961, operates Mall Galleries. 

The Federation (FBA) comprises nine of the UK’s leading art societies. Focusing on Figurative Art, our Societies place an emphasis on observation and draughtsmanship in the works that they produce and exhibit.

Each specialises in a genre or medium. Figurative genres: portrait, wildlife, marine and life drawing.

Media: Oil, watercolour and pastel.

A unique national resource, the FBA has over 600 practising artists and is home to the largest life drawing society in London (Hesketh Hubbard Art Society).

Holding their annual exhibition at Mall Galleries, many of which are also open to artists to enter their work for exhibition alongside that of the Society members.

What is Figurative Art?

How to define Figurative? The Figurative Art definition is generally; art depicting the shape of things, objects, places and perceptions. Creating a likeness.

It is sometimes confused with ‘figure painting’ or ‘figural art’ which exclusively depicts human or animal subjects.

The FBA has two Societies that do specialise in figural art and figure painting or drawing: The Royal Society of Portrait Painters and The Hesketh Hubbard Art Society. The Society of Wildlife Artists, depicts animals and birds, which makes it another figural based art society. 

Representation and Abstraction

The word figurative gives rise to interesting questions. Sometimes there is an assumption that figuration and abstraction are mutually exclusive. We should not necessarily think about the boundaries between figuration and abstraction, but focus on the connections between them. The Figurative vs. Abstract debate is not the same as it was back in the early 20th century. They are no longer considered to be polar opposites.

A huge amount of work from FBA artists is somewhere in between what some might consider the dividing line of abstraction and figuration.

Pattern and abstract elements can synthesize representational paintings, giving an impression of something more recognisably real. 

Is there a difference between that and what we might call non-objective abstraction, when the work does not represent or depict a person, place or thing? 

How can we tell which is which? By contextualising the work, though its title, concept, familiarity with the artist’s work. Metaphorical and allegorical aspects might come into play. A work might not be depicting a person, place or thing, but instead an emotional state or a feeling. Are these not also part of reality?

Observation and Draughtsmanship

At the FBA we place importance on the art-making process, skill and craft but that does not mean that the concept and context is neglected or considered to be inferior. 

Observation and draughtsmanship are key concerns, even for those Societies whose focus is on the media used rather than the subjects depicted: The Pastel Society, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and Royal Institute of Oil Painters.

For these Societies the technical skills and use of their chosen medium is no less important than the subject of the work. Finding new and innovative ways to apply these media, broadening the idea of what can be achieved with these media and indeed, what can be included in the definition of that media.

Contemporary Figurative Art encompasses both elements of abstraction and representation.

Many of our figurative artists share a need to reflect the world around them, going beyond just representing physicality by interpreting social realities and personal experiences. A lot of what surrounds us and our perception of it is fragmented and abstract in a non-literal, visual sense, so it is especially interesting to see where today’s artists’ seeking to represent reality fall within the figurative art tradition.

We are a Charity

The Federation receives no on-going public funding and is entirely reliant for its income on admission fees and ticket sales, sponsorship, subscriptions from Friends and Patrons, Exhibitions and Events and sales commissions.  The work we sell benefits artists and visitors alike; our successful Commissions Service helps people find the ideal artist to commission a special work of art. Mall Galleries also has a popular Bookshop and café.

The charity places great importance on its educational activities.  These involve reaching out to diverse age groups and communities from London and around the UK.  

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Registered Charity Number 200048

Company Reg No 683275

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