Portrait

DEFINITION

A painting, sculpture, drawing or photograph that is a likeness of a human being or animal, living or dead. Portraits can be full length, heads, torsos or portrait busts, life size or disproportionate, abstract or realistic, and executed in many mediums. Many artists do self portraits. In the 17th and 18th centuries miniature portraits were popular and small enough to be carried or worn as a locket. John Ramage, James Peale Sr. and Rufus Hathaway were well known miniaturists of that era. Commissioned portrait painting has been especially popular as the way to record a likeness until photography became readily available. In Europe and early America, many painters made their living either as commissioned portrait painters for wealthy families or as itinerants who traveled the countryside. Often itinerants had a set of body figures filled in and then customized faces of subjects. Among noted early American itinerant portraitist painters were John Brewster, Robert Feke, William Dunlap and William Jennys. In ancient Egypt portraits were monuments to the greatness of a subject rather than realistic depictions. In Classical Greece, portraits demonstrated ideal beauty, but Roman portraits tended to be realistic. The art of portraiture was not practiced during the Middle Ages because of the focus exclusively on religious subjects. During the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism and humanism, portrait painting was in high demand because many successful persons wanted to be immortalized and have their importance remembered with portraits. Society portraitists include William Merritt Chase, John Alexander White and John Singer Sargent. Among American portraitists of important American historical figures are Gilbert Stuart and Charles Willson Peale who did famous likenesses of George Washington. Mary Cassatt remains known for child portraits, mostly of family members, and Nicolai Fechin for impressionist portraits of well known people such as Willa Cather that captured the complexities of the inner person. Some artists such as Robert Henri depicted ordinary people, and Alice Neel painted her own children, sad and pensive. Animal portraitists include Ann Collins and Michael Finnell who are noted for their portraits of famous race horses. In contrast Deborah Butterfield is famous for her assemblage sculptures of ordinary horses, often old broken down and un-glamourous. Cassius Coolidge and William Wegmam pose their own dogs for humorous depictions that combine portraiture with anthropomorphic genre. Sources: Ralph Mayer, "A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques"; AskART biographies<br><br>An art design in which the height is greater than the width. (Opposite of Landscape.)<br><br>A portrait in sculpture comprises of the head only or head and neck. Compare with Bust.

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