Portrait Approaches

Draft being updated

Research point: Select several types of portraits from different periods if you can and begin to make notes and collect pictures for your learning log. For each portrait you select, Try and understand it from several points of view.

  • point of view of the person in the portrait – did they ask for it to be painted? How have they been represented? What does the portrait tell us about the character of the sitter?
  • point of view of the artist – why has the artist chosen to portray the sitter in a particular manner? Has the artist used any tricks to represent the sitter? Is the artist referring to another style or artist in the painting and why?
  • point of view of the audience for the portrait – is it a private, personal
    painting to be seen by a few close friends and family members? How can you tell? What is the audience meant to see or read in the portrait? Who has made the decision to present the figure in this way and why?
  • composition:  full portraits, three-quarter views or just head and shoulders? Does composition make a difference to your understanding of the painting? Is the subject looking at the viewer or in profile? This might be particularly
    important in a self-portrait.

 

Portraits

Sometimes the character of the sitter is conveyed through distorting reality.

At other times the person is depicted with objects from their life which tells us something about their status, interests or aspirations.

Maggi Hambling’s portrait of Dorothy Mary Hodgkin (1985, National Portrait Gallery) uses the sitter’s active mind and busy scientific career as an opportunity to explore our emotions by giving the Doctor many hands, all working away in front of us.

Self portraits

Present an unreal image of the painter to the world as they represent a reverse mirror image (until the use of photographs made a correct-way-round
portrayal possible). However, working in a printed form the artist’s self-portrait will be reversed again and appear as normal, not in reverse as in a mirror.

Can an artist represent themselves in profile?

 

History

Prehistoric?

Ancient world

In Egypt portraits of rulers and gods were highly stylised, and most in profile, usually on stone, metal, clay, plaster, or crystal. Egyptian portraiture placed relatively little emphasis on likeness, at least until the period of Akhenaten in the 14th century BC.portrait bust of Queen Nefertiti sculpted in c.1360 bc

Roman-Egyptian funeral portrait of a woman
Portrait painting of notables in China probably goes back to over 1000 BC, though none survive from that age. Existing Chinese portraits go back to about 1000 AD

Ancient Greek and Roman portraiture was often highly accurate and subjects were depicted with relatively little flattery.  Sculpted heads of rulers and famous personalities like Socrates show why he had a reputation for being ugly.

Middle Ages

Most early medieval portraits were donor portraits, initially mostly of popes in Roman mosaics, and illuminated manuscripts, an example being a self-portrait by the writer, mystic, scientist, illuminator, and musician Hildegard of Bingen (1152).

Renaissance

Many innovations in the various forms of portraiture evolved. Use of finer brush strokes in oils.
Northern European: Durer, Jan van Eyck, Holbein

 

During the Renaissance, the Florentine and Milanese nobility, in particular, wanted more realistic representations of themselves. The challenge of creating convincing full and three-quarter views stimulated experimentation and innovation. Sandro Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Lorenzo di Credi, and Leonardo da Vinci and other artists expanded their technique accordingly, adding portraiture to traditional religious and classical subjects. Leonardo and Pisanello were among the first Italian artists to add allegorical symbols to their secular portraits

 Baroque and Rococo
Caravaggio

19th century

Ingres
Watteau
Impressionists
Degas
Van Gogh 

20th century

Schiele
Warhol
Lucien Freud
Chuck Close

Andy WarholMarilyn Diptych, 1962, 2,054 cm × 1,448 cm., (809 in × 570 in), Tate Gallery, London. Andy Warhol (1928-1987), made several portraits of Marilyn Monroe and other celebrities during the 1960s and throughout his career

Contemporary

Jenny Saville

 

David Hockney

Tracey Emin

 

Jenny Saville

Maggi Hambling

Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt’s technique influenced:

Project 1.2 Urban landscapes etchings and drypoint

Assignment 3 Chiaroscuro

Project 4.2 Self Portraits

Sources and references

Bikker, J. and G. J. M. Weber (2015). Rembrandt: The Late Works. London, National Gallery.
Royalton-Kisch, M. (2006). Rembrandt as Printmaker. London, Hayward Gallery Touring.

Etchings

Christie’s exhibition

Rembrandt (1606-1669) was a Dutch  painter, draughtsman and printmaker. His works cover a wide range of style and subject matter, from portraits and self-portraits to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, biblical and mythological themes as well as animal studies.

Rembrandt’s fame while he lived was greater as an etcher than as a painter (he did no engravings or woodcuts). He experimented with different etching and drypoint techniques. He used different mark-making tools to create different types of line – in contrast to the much more mechanical engraving techniques. Rembrandt sometimes employed even the V-shaped engraver’s burin in his etchings, combining it with the fine etching needle and thicker dry point needle, as in the work opposite, for richer pictorial effects.

Rembrandt Old Bearded Man
Rembrandt Old Bearded Man
Rembrandt with Saskia etching
Rembrandt with Saskia etching
Rembrandt Mother in Widow's Dress and Black Gloves
Rembrandt Mother in Widow’s Dress and Black Gloves
Rembrandt The Three Trees Etching and Drypoint
Rembrandt The Three Trees Etching and Drypoint

He also experimented with different inking variations for chiaroscuro, producing very different interpretations of the same plate. Etching allows a lot of correction and burnishing to change the image. In some instances his etching were explorations of light and shade that he then transferred into his paintings.

Rembrandt The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, 1634, etching, engraving and drypoint printed in black ink on cream paper.
Rembrandt The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, 1634, etching, engraving and drypoint printed in black ink on cream paper.

Goldmark exhibition (has a loupe to see the detail of markmaking)

Detailed discussion of Rembrandt’s techniques and the background to his etchings.

Rembrandt’s technique

Rembrandt’s self portraits

Rembrandt The Late Works

Schminke water-based inks

Used in:

Assignment 1: Willows

Project 2.2: Random Abstract Prints

Schminke water-based inks are the first inks I ever used. They are artist-quality linoprint inks, made with high-quality organic and inorganic pigments on a gum arabic base. They have good lightfastness (at least 4-5 stars). They dry within 15 minutes to be wipe-proof but not waterproof and can be overprinted if necessary. There are 15 colours and 3 effect colours.

They can be used for:

  • linocut: the fast-drying time means they can be quickly overprinted and give a sharp line
  • monoprint: being water-based, they are also diluted with water which can produce very beautiful water-colour effects on monoprint. They can also be laid onto softfoam and keep their texture well when used with a palette-knife.

Hiroshige and Hokusai: Japanese woodblock prints

The woodblock prints of Hiroshige and Hokusai were the source for my work in Project 2.1: Formal Abstracts: Japanese landscape.

Ukiyo-e

In-depth video on history and development of techniques of Japanese woodcut from monochrome through painted monochrome prints to multiblock printing. It looks at its influence on Western artists like Van Gogh and Monet following the exhibition of Japanese art for the first time at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. It also looks at the modern day revival of ukiyo-e prints as paintings on shops in Tokyo regeneration.

Japanese woodblock prints with Paul Binnie

Lecture on background and underlying ideas in Japanese printing techniques.

Japanese woodblock printing History Ukiyo-e Jose Ortega

History of Japanese printing and way it spread and related to earlier Chinese and Buddhist prints.

Technique (from Wikipedia)

The technique for printing texts and images was generally similar. The obvious differences were the volume produced when working with texts (many pages for a single work), and the complexity of multiple colours in some images. Images in books were almost always in monochrome (black ink only), and for a time art prints were likewise monochrome or done in only two or three colours.

The text or image was first drawn onto washi (Japanese paper), then glued face-down onto a plank of wood, usually cherry. Wood was then cut away, based on the drawing outlines. A small wooden hard object called a baren was used to press or burnish the paper against the inked woodblock to apply the ink to the paper. Although this may have been done purely by hand at first, complex wooden mechanisms were soon invented and adopted to help hold the woodblock perfectly still and apply proper pressure in the printing process. This was especially helpful with the introduction of multiple colours that had to be applied with precision over previous ink layers.

While, again, text was nearly always monochrome, as were images in books, the growth of the popularity of ukiyo-e brought with it demand for ever increasing numbers of colors and complexity of techniques. The stages of this development follow:

  • Sumizuri-e (墨摺り絵?, “ink printed pictures”)—monochrome printing using only black ink
  • Benizuri-e (紅摺り絵?, “crimson printed pictures”)—red ink details or highlights added by hand after the printing process;green was sometimes used as well
  • Tan-e (丹絵?)—orange highlights using a red pigment called tan
  • Aizuri-e (藍摺り絵?, “indigo printed pictures”), Murasaki-e (紫絵?, “purple pictures”), and other styles in which a single color was used in addition to, or instead of, black ink
  • Urushi-e (漆絵?)—a method that thickened the ink with glue, emboldening the image. Printers often used gold, mica, and other substances to enhance the image further. Urushi-e can also refer to paintings using lacquer instead of paint. Lacquer was rarely, if ever, used on prints.
  • Nishiki-e (錦絵?, “brocade pictures”)—a method of using multiple blocks for separate portions of the image, using a number of colors to achieve complex and detailed images. A separate block was carved to apply only the part of the image designated for a single color. Registration marks called kentō (見当) were used to ensure correspondence between the application of each block.

Contemporary Japanese woodblock

Katsutoshi Yuasa

Keizaburo Matsuzaki

Francis Bacon

!!to be further elaborated as I finalise Assignments 4 and 5

Francis Bacon’s edgy, visceral paintings tapping the unconscious a key source of inspiration for:

Quotations from the videos below:

We do with our lives what we can. And then we die. What else is there?

If anything ever does work in my case chance, and what I call ‘accident’ takes over.

Gamble everything on the next brush stroke…different strokes trying to do something else then develop themselves

How are you going to trap reality? How are you going to trap an appearance without making an illustration of it?

  • Colour of meat is beautiful

Issues for my printmaking:

  • Feeling the form as it emerges – particularly with monoprint or inking collagraph plates. One thing can turn into another.
  • Can work from photographs for portraits. But observe – Bacon could not draw.
  • Shadows do not need to relate to a subject – making them different can create considerable tension
  • his tryptichs ‘don’t relate to each other, but they play off one another…the balance seems better with three’

 

Key images

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion c.1944 The work’s exhibition in April 1945 coincided with the release of the first photographs and film footage of the Nazi concentration camps. (Tate Modern website)
Triptych August 1972. This work is generally considered one in a series of Black Triptychs which followed the suicide of Bacon’s lover, George Dyer. Dyer appears on the left and Bacon is on the right. The central group is derived from a photograph of wrestlers by Edward Muybridge, but also suggests a more sexual encounter. The seated figures and their coupling are set against black voids and the central flurry has been seen as ‘a life-and death struggle’. (Tate Modern website)
Study for a self-portrait. Also known as Businessman I 1952 or Man’s Head 1952

Other paintings

 1940s

Man in a Cap

Videos

BBC documentary

Tate Gallery Retrospective with words from Francis Bacon spoken by John Hurt

BBC Archive film

His last interview

Works set to music

Resources and references

Helen Frankenthaler experiments

Abstract from Frankenthaler

Studies for Project 2.2 Random Abstract Prints

Issues for printmaking technique:

  • Use water-based Schminke inks because they can be very dilute and mix beautifully on the paper.
  • Do a painting on the plate using different thicknesses of pigment and leave to dry fully.
  • Then selectively spray with water, and use gravity to move the pigment around, to produce the final painting.
  • Hand print on damp paper.
  • Many print variations can be made on the same inking plate through adding pigment and respraying.

About Helen Frankenthaler

Website of Helen Frankenthaler Foundation

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) was eminent among the second generation of postwar American abstract painters and is widely credited for playing a pivotal role in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting.

Through her invention of the soak-stain technique, she expanded the possibilities of abstract painting, while at times referencing figuration and landscape in unique ways. Her 1952 Mountains and Sea, was a seminal, breakthrough painting of American abstraction. Pioneering the “stain” painting technique, she poured thinned paint directly onto raw, unprimed canvas laid on the studio floor, working from all sides to create floating fields of translucent color. Mountains and Sea was immediately influential for the artists who formed the Color Field school of painting, notable among them Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland.

Helen Frankenthaler painting: HFF website

Some of the most impactful for the mixing of pigments on the surface are her watercolours.

Helen Frankenthaler watercolours: Google images

In addition to unique paintings on canvas and paper, she worked in a wide range of media, including ceramics, sculpture, tapestry, and especially printmaking. As a significant voice in the mid-century “print renaissance” among American abstract painters, she is particularly renowned for her woodcuts.

Helen Frankenthaler print: HFF website

Stain painting techniques

Abstract painting techniques

Research on abstract painting techniques for Project 2.2 Random Abstracts

Below are videos of different approaches in paint that I could explore in printmaking.

Hard Edge Abstraction

Possible to explore for masked monoprint and/or screen print. Or indeed using masking on any type of print. These techniques use masking tape that is also worth exploring.

See also: Abstract Expressionism

Mark Rothko techniques

Willem de Kooning

Clyfford Still