Representational art has won a victory in Rockville.

William Woodward, a Washington realist painter, has been awarded a $25,000 commission to paint a 20-by-15-foot mural for the atrium of the new city hall there. It will depict Rockville's traditional Memorial Day Parade.

Woodward was the second choice of the city's Cultural Arts Commission, which, after a six-month search, had voted 3 to 2 to recommend that an abstract artist, Washington's Dennis O'Neil, be selected for the job.

That recommendation was overridden Monday night when the mayor and city council voted 3 to 2 in Woodward's favor. "Mr. O'Neil submitted a very fine painting," said Rockville Mayor William Hanna. "But three of us felt strongly that the mural should have some relationship to Rockville . . . O'Neil's work could just as well have been in Peoria. I hope we can arrange to have something of his somewhere else in City Hall."

"The Cultural Arts Commission has recommended many other works for other parts of the city, and in all cases we have chosen its selections," the mayor said. "But they are an advisory body . . . and we do reserve the right, on rare occasion, to change the recommendation or make some amendment. After all, we were elected by the people to make decisions."

The commission, after considering more than 50 artists, had reduced the list to three: O'Neil, Woodward and Washington sculptor Rockne Krebs. After several studio visits, the commission submitted a final recommendation to the mayor and council: There were three votes for O'Neil, two for Woodward.

"We knew that the final decision would be up to the mayor and council," said Eileen Mader, head of the commission. "I do not consider their vote a rejection."

Woodward is a well-known area painter who teaches at George Washington University. He showed most recently at the Fendrick Gallery and recently completed a series of murals at Clyde's restaurant in Tyson's Corner, which, he said yesterday, may be in the background of the forthcoming movie, "Best Friends," with Goldie Hawn and Burt Reynolds.