Portrait Approaches

Portraits as a ‘likeness’ of an individual captured through painting, drawing and/or photography have been a part of human culture since prehistoric times. However portraits can have many different purposes that affect the way in which the concept of ‘likeness’ is interpreted,  the form of ‘capturing’.  Portraits vary widely in for example:

  • what is portrayed? is this a portrait of the face only (eg frontal, side or three quarters view)? is it just head and shoulders (what attitude?) is it the full body (what posture)? or part of the body only (eg hands? eyes? feet?) ? or is the main focus on context (some portraits contain objects and environment of the sitter without the sitter themselves)
  • external or internal ‘reality’? is the aim mainly a figurative likeness of external appearance? or more a ‘capturing of inner soul’ that permits abstraction and exaggeration of shapes, colours etc? or does it try to do both?

This is often affected by:

  • the relationship between the person portrayed and the person doing the portrayal: who commissioned it? who is paying? who is in control of the decisions? 
    • was the portrait commissioned by the subject? why and for whom? how do they wish themselves to be represented?
    • was the portrait instigated by the artist? using a paid model? or a friend/lover etc? why and for whom? do they have a specific artistic style?
  •  the context in which the portrait is to be viewed:
    • is it a private, personal painting to be seen by a few close friends and family members who know the person well? 
    • does the intended audience have particular views about what is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ portrait? or are they more interested in innovative approaches?

These factors have varied significantly over time.

Ancient world

Prehistoric cave paintings, pottery and statuettes depicted people in abstracted form. Some of these may have represented particular people eg chiefs, or deities where particular characteristics have been exaggerated eg fertility or facial features/hairstyles/clothing showing ethnic identity.

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 ofAkhenaten in the 14th century BC.portrait bust of Queen Nefertiti sculpted in c.1360 bc

Roman-Egyptian funeral portrait of a woman

China: 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 commissioned by , 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.

Hildegard von Bingen

Renaissance

Many innovations in the various forms of portraiture evolved because of economic and social changes in the role of the artist, and technological innovations eg use of oil paints that enabled finer brush strokes.

Northern European: Durer, Jan van Eyck, Holbein

Albrecht Durer painted like Christ

Italy: the Florentine and Milanese nobility wanted more realistic representations of themselves that stimulated experimentation and innovation particularly in creating convincing full and three-quarter views. Artists like Sandro Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Lorenzo di Credi, and Leonardo da Vinci and other artists added portraiture to traditional religious and classical subjects, often in very similar style. Leonardo and Pisanello were among the first Italian artists to add allegorical symbols to their secular portraits.

Mona Lisa

Baroque and Rococo

In the 16th Century artists increasingly experimented with printmaking techniques to produce figurative portraits as for example:

Rembrandt van Rijn  who painted powerful portraits of himself ‘warts and all’ as he grew older. In addition to paintings he also made etchings.

 Benedetto Castiglione who, influenced by Rembrandt, experimented with monoprint from 1640 to produce very detailed portraits.

19th and early 20th century

Saw further development of figurative portraits by artists like Ingres, Watteau. But also the evolution of:

  • Impressionism focusing on effects of light and colour like Degas
  • Fauvists and expressionists whose woodcut portraits and paintings used exaggerated forms of distortion and use of colour to express emotion and tried to capture ‘inner essence’ and/or the feelings of the artist towards the subject.

20th century

Artists continued to abstract further:

Picasso
Egon Schiele
Francis Bacon
Andy Warhol
Lucien Freud
Chuck Close

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, 1962

Contemporary

Some artists continued to aim for a ‘heightened realism’ through exaggerated colour and/or dramatic use of line, for example:

Other artists focus much more on inner emotions, particularly in self-portraits, in some cases focusing more on symbolic objects than representation of the subject themselves:

References

!!to be completed

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/genres/portrait-art.htm 

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

John Virtue

Paintings on Google

WeAreOCA profile of John Virtue

John Virtue is an English artist who specialises in monochrome landscapes. He is honorary Professor of Fine Art at the University of Plymouth, and from 2003–2005 was the sixth Associate Artist at London’s National Gallery.[1]

Virtue was born in Accrington, Lancashire in 1947.[2] He trained at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1965 to 1969. In 1971 he moved to Green Haworth, near Oswaldtwistle, painting landscapes for two years before abandoning painting in favour of pen and ink drawings comprising dense networks of lines akin to the work of Samuel Palmer.[3]

From 1978 he worked as a postman, giving this up in 1985 to work as a full-time artist. He lived in Devon from 1988–2004.[4]

Maintaining a studio in Exeter, he produced works around the Exe estuary, before being offered the post of Associate Artist at the National Gallery.[5] This scheme engages contemporary artists to produce work that “connects to the National Gallery Collection” and demonstrates “the continuing inspiration of the Old Master tradition”.[1]

Work[edit]

Virtue uses only black and white on his work as he sees colour as “unnecessary distraction”.[6] He uses shellac black ink and white paint.

He is well known for his “London Paintings” which were displayed in The National Gallery and focused on the London skyline, using easily distinguishable landmarks from the capital such as the Gherkin, the NatWest Tower and St. Paul’s Cathedral, to familiarise his audience with the otherwise hazy, smoggy and ambiguous drawings.

Virtue’s awards include: first prize in the Sunday Mirror painting competition (1964), Walter Neurath prize for painting awarded by Thames & Hudson Publishers (1966), Arts Council Major Award (1981), Joint First prize-winner in the 4th Tolly Cobbold Exhibition (1983), and Best Visual Artist in the South Bank Awards (2006).[7]

His work during his National Gallery tenure was exhibited in 2005 at the National Gallery and Courtauld Institute, and his final, large-scale, London works were exhibited at the University of Plymouth in 2007.[4]He moved to Italy to work and returned in 2009 to live in North Norfolk.[8] where he has continued to produce work, for example, ‘The Sea’ exhibitions[

Fauvism and Expressionism

Fauvism and Expressionism influenced:

Project 4.1 Portrait of a Friend

Fauvism is the name applied to the work produced from around 1905 to 1910 by a group of French artists led by  Henri Matisse and André Derain, but including Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, Georges Rouault, and Maurice de Vlaminck ). It was inspired by post-impressionism of Vincent van GoghPaul GauguinGeorges Seurat, and Paul Cézanne.  The name les fauves (‘the wild beasts’) was coined by the critic Louis Vauxcelles when he saw the work of Henri Matisse and André Derain in an exhibition, the salon d’automne in Paris, in 1905.

Fauvism was characterised by:

  • use of strong saturated colours as independent elements that projected a mood and established a structure for a painting  without having to be true to the natural world. They were interested in scientific colour theories and often juxtaposed complementary colours to increase vibrancy.
  • concern with strong and unified compositional balance of colour and shape elements to give an immediate strong and unified visual impression
  • fierce dynamic brushwork juxtaposed with areas of flat colour
  • all elements aimed to promote the artist’s individual expression, their direct experience of their subjects, emotional response to nature, and intuition were all more important than academic theory or elevated subject matter.

It was an important precursor to Expressionism, Cubism and future modes of abstraction.

Alexej Georgewitsch von Jawlensky (RussianАлексей Георгиевич Явленский) (13 March 1864 – 15 March 1941) was a Russian expressionist painter active in Germany. He was a key member of the New Munich Artist’s Association (Neue Künstlervereinigung München), Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group and later the Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four).

website: http://www.alexej-von-jawlensky.com/

References

    • Connaissance des arts (2017). Andre Derain: 1904-1914 La Decennie Radicale. Paris, Connaissance des arts.
    • Barnett, V. E., Ed. (2017). Alexei Jawlensky. Munich, London, New York, Prestel.
    • Derain, A. (2017). Andre Derain. London and Paris, FAGE.
    • Muller, J. E. (1967). Fauvism. London, Thames and Hudson.

Tate website: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/f/fauvism

https://www.theartstory.org/movement-fauvism.htm