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Portrait Painting

Portraiture is one of the most important subjects in painting. The discipline has changed significantly over time and has a fascinating history.

In antiquity, portraits were exclusively reserved for gods and the most influential people in society. Paintings and statues representing the bodies of the deceased were erected to decorate tombs in Egypt. They weren’t realistic but rather had a very standardised way of representing each part of the body.

In contrast to the Egyptians, painters and sculptors in Greece, who had a more in depth knowledge of the human anatomy, were more concerned about realism. Many paintings from this period were done on vases and depicted gods and mythological scenes.

In the Middle Ages, most portraits were commissioned and featuring the most important people of the time; they were painted into religious scenes to emphasise their piety and faith, along with their social status. Once these works of art had been painted, they were often donated to churches and monasteries.

The Renaissance marked a renewal for the arts and portraiture was no exception. At the beginning of this period, artists were unconcerned about lifelike, realistic work. Sitters or the subjects represented were identifiable through the use of symbolic objects and the inclusion of their name.

Giotto revolutionised portraiture by imitating sculpture. He began to paint shadows, the subjects’ expressions, effects of depth and began to use foreshortening. His knowledge soon began to spread.

Brunelleschi then introduced the idea of perspective in architecture, a concept which Masaccio adapted to painting. Italy became the centre of portraiture and the most important Italian families (including the Médici family) commissioned artwork by the best painters. Competition between these painters led them to innovate and led them to produce some of the greatest artworks in history. The most famous is undoubtedly the Mona Lisa by Leonardo de Vinci.

In Northern Europe during the sixteenth century, Flemish art was restricted by iconoclasm during “the reformation”, a period during the depiction of religious figures was banned. Artists turned to courtly art which was particularly popular during the following centuries. A century earlier, Flemish art had marked a turning point with Jan Van Eyck, the inventor of oil painting (the preferred painting technique of all Renaissance painters) and master of detailed realism, who influenced an entire generation of Flemish painters.

Over the following centuries, portraiture continued to be an art form for the elite of society, but painters grew increasingly concerned about depicting realistic figures and communicating the sitter’s inner world and emotions. The 20th century saw a growing trend: subjects were not painted to look beautiful (sometimes to their great dismay).

At the end of the 19th century, impressionist painters became less reliant on sculpted models and sculpture’s influence. They left their studios and painted portraits outside, “en plein air”. They captured the light as they saw it and painted groups of people together rather than in in several stages.

Modern and contemporary art of the 20th century saw anything go when it came to portraits. Artists like Gustave Klimt, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin and Lucien Freud turned traditional techniques and codified rules on their heads and developed their own unique styles. Discover portraits by Philippe Pasqua, Robert Combas, Guangyu Dai and Erró on Artsper.

Collector’s Guide: Collecting Paintings

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Martine Fauve Dechavanne, Mode, Painting

Martine Fauve Dechavanne

Mode, 2021
92 x 60 x 2 cm


Jazzu, Pink Life, Painting


Pink Life, 2020
41 x 33 x 3 cm


Etienne Quesnay, Couverte de fleurs, Painting

Etienne Quesnay

Couverte de fleurs, 2021
31 x 23 cm


Béatrice Terra, A qui ai-je l'honneur ?, Painting

Béatrice Terra

A qui ai-je l'honneur ?, 2021
100 x 81 x 3 cm


Jana & JS, I Get Lost Sometimes, Painting

Jana & JS

I Get Lost Sometimes, 2021
25 x 25 x 2 cm


Joanna Glazer, Blue Bird of Paradise, Painting

Joanna Glazer

Blue Bird of Paradise, 2015
80 x 60 x 1 cm

$240 $479

Hom Nguyen, Woman, Painting

Hom Nguyen

Woman, 2021
150 x 150 x 4 cm

15,000 - $ 25,000

Florence Dussuyer, Cendrillon, Painting

Florence Dussuyer

Cendrillon, 2020
150 x 150 x 4 cm


Henry Meylan, Peintre à son chevalet peignant femme et enfant, Painting

Henry Meylan

Peintre à son chevalet peignant femme et enfant, 1949
55 x 46 x 2 cm


Nef, Silence, Painting


Silence, 2021
29.7 x 42 cm


Marta Zawadzka, In the garden, Painting

Marta Zawadzka

In the garden, 2021
90 x 90 x 2 cm


Béatrice Alice Lafitte-Irigaray, Angel BA, Painting

Béatrice Alice Lafitte-Irigaray

Angel BA, 2021
92 x 62 cm


Chris Ellis (Daze), Tunnel, Painting

Chris Ellis (Daze)

Tunnel, 2011
40.6 x 50.8 cm


Istraille, Pelshery, Painting


Pelshery, 2021
80 x 60 cm


Noir Artist, Contemplation - Paz, Painting

Noir Artist

Contemplation - Paz, 2021
150 x 100 x 5 cm


Cécile Desserle, Turbulence, Painting

Cécile Desserle

Turbulence, 2021
116 x 89 x 3 cm


E. Rosselli, La femme au turban jaune, Painting

E. Rosselli

La femme au turban jaune, 1947
56.5 x 46.5 x 2 cm


Alexander Daniloff, Pic nic, Painting

Alexander Daniloff

Pic nic, 2006
32 x 60 x 0.3 cm

$567 $630

Shake, Nobody Likes Me (Banksy Tribute), Painting


Nobody Likes Me (Banksy Tribute), 2021
80 x 60 x 4 cm


Alea Pinar Du Pre, Maria, Painting

Alea Pinar Du Pre

Maria, 2021
59 x 46 x 3 cm


Séverine Solcourt, Go Smiley, Painting

Séverine Solcourt

Go Smiley, 2021
140 x 140 x 2 cm


Antoine Stevens, Sofia, Painting

Antoine Stevens

Sofia, 2021
70 x 50 x 5 cm


Linda Bachammar Clerget, Ataraxia, Painting

Linda Bachammar Clerget

Ataraxia, 2021
76 x 56 x 0.1 cm


JM Robert, Sans titre, Painting

JM Robert

Sans titre, 2021
50 x 40 x 4 cm


Pinto, 825, Painting


825, 2021
120 x 120 x 4 cm


Zena Blackwell, Untitled, Painting

Zena Blackwell

Untitled, 2021
25.4 x 25.4 x 2 cm


Jan Wysocky, Rain, Painting

Jan Wysocky

Rain, 2021
80 x 80 x 2 cm


Lucio Forte, Untitled 51, Painting

Lucio Forte

Untitled 51, 2021
31 x 23 x 0.1 cm


Voxx Romana, Akashic Crown, Painting

Voxx Romana

Akashic Crown, 2019
63 x 48.5 x 1 cm


Renjie Gao, Portrait No.3, Painting

Renjie Gao

Portrait No.3, 2021
60 x 50 x 4 cm


Vitaliy Lishko, Portrait / Painting Original / Square painting, Painting

Vitaliy Lishko

Portrait / Painting Original / Square painting, 2021
120 x 120 x 2 cm

$2,326 $3,877

Lorena Fonsato, La sirena Lorelei, Painting

Lorena Fonsato

La sirena Lorelei, 2021
40 x 40 x 2 cm


Yoann Bonneville (YBA), Sunset 3, Painting

Yoann Bonneville (YBA)

Sunset 3, 2021
100 x 81 x 3 cm


Marc Prat, Shade mask, Painting

Marc Prat

Shade mask, 2019
20 x 20 x 5 cm


Serghei Ghetiu, Little ballerinas meet the summer bird, Painting

Serghei Ghetiu

Little ballerinas meet the summer bird, 2021
85 x 60 x 2 cm


Joyce Fournier, Missing you, Painting

Joyce Fournier

Missing you, 2011
35.6 x 27.9 x 2.5 cm


Bastien Ducourtioux, Space oddity, Painting

Bastien Ducourtioux

Space oddity, 2020
80 x 60 x 2 cm


Yaroslava Neli Shai, Geisha, Painting

Yaroslava Neli Shai

Geisha, 2021
120 x 90 x 3 cm


Sid'Ali Hams, La pensée de Zorha 1, Painting

Sid'Ali Hams

La pensée de Zorha 1, 2021
65 x 55 x 0.1 cm


Théo Le Franc, S16, Painting

Théo Le Franc

S16, 2021
30 x 30 x 2.5 cm


Monsieur Mollotov, Dog, Painting

Monsieur Mollotov

Dog, 2021
116 x 89 x 3 cm


Guy Ghazanchyan, #12 From Witness of 2020 Series, Painting

Guy Ghazanchyan

#12 From Witness of 2020 Series, 2021
65 x 50 x 2 cm

$1,442 $1,696

Rem Pirumov, Dream Woman I, Painting

Rem Pirumov

Dream Woman I, 2021
55 x 30 x 2 cm


Gregory Malphurs, Bored of Directors 3, Painting

Gregory Malphurs

Bored of Directors 3, 2021
22.9 x 15.2 cm


Linda Vachon, Gris-bleu, Painting

Linda Vachon

Gris-bleu, 2021
101.6 x 76.2 x 2.5 cm


Laurent Godard, Portrait d'anonyme en dégoulinant, Painting

Laurent Godard

Portrait d'anonyme en dégoulinant, 2021
30 x 30 x 3 cm


Sébastien Allart, Maiënn, Painting

Sébastien Allart

Maiënn, 2021
130 x 97 x 4 cm


Robert Lebsack, So they say, Painting

Robert Lebsack

So they say, 2021
27.9 x 43.2 cm


Caitlin Cartwright, Migration, Painting

Caitlin Cartwright

Migration, 2021
61 x 45.7 x 5.1 cm


Sébastien Desnos (s3b Desnos), Intuitive, Painting

Sébastien Desnos (s3b Desnos)

Intuitive, 2021
80 x 80 x 2 cm


Zwy Milshtein, Sans titre, Painting

Zwy Milshtein

Sans titre, 2005
20 x 25 x 0.1 cm


Gerdine Duijens, Anna, Painting

Gerdine Duijens

Anna, 2021
40.6 x 40.6 cm


Karel Appel, Sans Titre, Painting

Karel Appel

Sans Titre, 1973
76 x 58 x 3 cm


Izabela Lewkowicz, Portrait opiacé f006, Painting

Izabela Lewkowicz

Portrait opiacé f006, 2021
110 x 100 x 3 cm


Henriette Barety, Allons cueillir des fleurs, Painting

Henriette Barety

Allons cueillir des fleurs, 1979
38 x 28.5 cm

$202 $224

Alain Rigollier, The Model (Le Mannequin), Painting

Alain Rigollier

The Model (Le Mannequin), 2021
55 x 46 x 1 cm

$300 $600

Javier Garló, El Esperador, Painting

Javier Garló

El Esperador, 2021
40 x 40 x 4.5 cm


Benjamin Vitrol Vautier Alvarez, Athena of Liberty, Painting

Benjamin Vitrol Vautier Alvarez

Athena of Liberty, 2021
73 x 50 x 2 cm


James Earley, The Resilient King Of Southampton, Painting

James Earley

The Resilient King Of Southampton, 2021
77 x 52 x 3 cm


Anthony Ferrero (Wear One), Always more..., Painting

Anthony Ferrero (Wear One)

Always more..., 2018
80 x 60 x 1 cm


François Poulat, Geisha, Painting

François Poulat

Geisha, 2021
120 x 120 x 3 cm


François Bajeot, Marilyn Monroe, Painting

François Bajeot

Marilyn Monroe, 2021
80 x 60 x 2 cm


Julie Coudret Carrasco, Tony Montana, Painting

Julie Coudret Carrasco

Tony Montana, 2021
80 x 100 x 2 cm


Nicolas Osborn, Impressions Van Gogh, Painting

Nicolas Osborn

Impressions Van Gogh, 2021
100 x 80 x 2 cm


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