a category of plastic arts that encompasses painting, sculpture, graphic arts, and photography. Unlike nonrepresentational forms of plastic arts, the representational arts reflect reality in graphic images and easily recognizable forms. Depending on the specific intent, various branches of the representational arts reproduce the visually apprehended, objective qualities of the real world, such as volume, color, space, the material form of objects, and the ambience of light and air, as well as the sense of movement and change. Tendencies to represent the sensual qualities of an object often lead toward illusionism.
The representational arts do not only reflect that which is visually perceived. Many works also depict the development of events in time, a definite plot, an unfolding narrative, and dynamic action. Thus, the possibilities of the representational arts to spiritually perceive the world are increased. Man’s spiritual essence and the nature of his relatonship with other people are also revealed. The emotional and psychological content of the subject matter is expressed. The representational arts, with varying degrees of illusoriness and conventionality, provide in their totality a many-faceted, integral picture of reality, human life, and nature (in all its individual manifestations). A graphic embodiment of images that are the products of the imagination and do not exist in reality is also presented. The contents of the representational arts reflect not only the sensual aspects of an era but also its spiritual essence and its actual political, philosophical, aesthetic, and ethical ideas.
The representational arts play an important role in the life of society. By aesthetically assimilating the various elements of reality, they are a form of apprehension of the world. The representational arts become a powerful means of the ideological upbringing of a society by comprehending and evaluating their inner processes and by formulating the sociological and aesthetic ideals of an epoch.
The graphic nature of the images in the representational arts makes it possible for the artist to express with a great degree of immediacy his attitude toward various phenomena in life. This attitude is instilled in the viewer. Since the earliest stages in the development of a class society, the ruling classes have sought to use the representational arts as an ideological weapon and as a means of instilling a definite system of views in the minds of the masses.
With the development of the consciousness of the toiling masses and the formation of their own world view, the representational arts have become increasingly important as an expression of popular ideals and social protest. The struggle among ideological tendencies in the realm of the representational arts assumes a particularly critical form in a period of developed capitalism. Under contemporary conditions the ideological struggle expressed by the representational arts is a part of the general ideological struggle between the socialist and the capitalist systems.