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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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Seaty, Luanda, Painting


Luanda, 2019
146 x 114 x 3 cm


Marian Williams, Serenissima 1, Painting

Marian Williams

Serenissima 1, 2021
20 x 20 x 0.5 cm


Jazzu, Somewhere, Painting


Somewhere, 2020
40 x 30 x 3 cm


Miss Fuck, Pensif, Painting

Miss Fuck

Pensif, 2021
92 x 60 x 2.5 cm


Thierry Carrier, Code 2101, Painting

Thierry Carrier

Code 2101, 2021
130 x 89 x 3 cm


Martine Fauve Dechavanne, Champagne en musique, Painting

Martine Fauve Dechavanne

Champagne en musique, 2020
80 x 80 x 3 cm


Hom Nguyen, Human, Painting

Hom Nguyen

Human, 2021
200 x 200 x 5 cm

25,000 - $ 50,000

Olivier Massebeuf, Nocturne, Painting

Olivier Massebeuf

Nocturne, 2021
130 x 89 x 2 cm


Raoul P. Brosseau, Les sauveteurs, Painting

Raoul P. Brosseau

Les sauveteurs, 2021
120 x 100 x 2 cm


Mino Maccari, The Scarecrow, Painting

Mino Maccari

The Scarecrow, 1960
20.5 x 15 x 0.1 cm


Ora Ora, Skateboard - Moise, Painting

Ora Ora

Skateboard - Moise, 2021
80 x 20 x 3 cm


Percival Pernet, Jeune femme à la lecture, Painting

Percival Pernet

Jeune femme à la lecture, 1957
73 x 60 x 2 cm


Els Knockaert, Soatsaki, Painting

Els Knockaert

Soatsaki, 2021
80 x 80 x 5 cm


Jérôme Bouscarat, L'oiseau chasseur, Painting

Jérôme Bouscarat

L'oiseau chasseur, 2021
73 x 60 x 2 cm


Spaco, Police Love, Painting


Police Love, 2021
55 x 45 x 2 cm


Henry Meylan, Le portrait familial, Painting

Henry Meylan

Le portrait familial, 1971
84 x 112 x 2 cm


Frédérique Assaël, Samuel, Painting

Frédérique Assaël

Samuel, 2021
130 x 97 x 3 cm


Francoise Augustine, Inari, Painting

Francoise Augustine

Inari, 2021
65 x 50 cm


Ernesto Ercolani, Romantic Self-Portrait, Painting

Ernesto Ercolani

Romantic Self-Portrait, 1960
47.8 x 66 x 0.1 cm


Sandra Paris, Emballe-moi 1, Painting

Sandra Paris

Emballe-moi 1, 2021
17 x 14 x 0.25 cm


Fabien Novarino, 911 and Pink, Painting

Fabien Novarino

911 and Pink, 2021
80 x 80 x 1 cm


André Lanskoy, La famille, Painting

André Lanskoy

La famille, 1940
14 x 19 x 1 cm

$3,673 $4,081

Mauro Maugliani, Ring of Fire, Painting

Mauro Maugliani

Ring of Fire, 2021
100 x 100 x 3 cm


Franz Wanger, Artiste et modèle à l'atelier, Painting

Franz Wanger

Artiste et modèle à l'atelier, 1924
73 x 58 x 1 cm


Kaige Yang, La demoiselle I, Painting

Kaige Yang

La demoiselle I, 2021
50 x 30 x 1 cm


Alexander Daniloff, Lupi di mare, Painting

Alexander Daniloff

Lupi di mare, 2017
10 x 21 x 0.3 cm


Jéko, 17h25 dans le jardin, Painting


17h25 dans le jardin, 2020
65 x 50 x 0.2 cm


Edmond Li Bellefroid, Méduse, Painting

Edmond Li Bellefroid

Méduse, 2021
100 x 100 x 2 cm


DN, Goku, Painting


Goku, 2021
80 x 24 x 1 cm


Mario Henrique, Somnium No. 5, Series IX, Painting

Mario Henrique

Somnium No. 5, Series IX, 2021
100 x 100 cm


Raya Sorkine, Le banquet, Painting

Raya Sorkine

Le banquet, 1990
27 x 22 x 2 cm


Christopher Henry, Téléphone Rose, Painting

Christopher Henry

Téléphone Rose, 2021
19 x 15.5 x 0.1 cm


B.AX, Art Station, Painting


Art Station, 2021
80 x 80 cm


Marie Montagnat, En coulisse 2, Painting

Marie Montagnat

En coulisse 2, 2017
100 x 100 x 4 cm


Raf Urban, Hope #7, Painting

Raf Urban

Hope #7, 2021
100 x 100 x 2 cm


Zena Blackwell, Child, Painting

Zena Blackwell

Child, 2021
30 x 23 x 0.5 cm


Patricia Simsa, La tasse rose, Painting

Patricia Simsa

La tasse rose, 2021
90 x 110 x 5 cm


Chloé Kelly Miller, Coucher de soleil, Painting

Chloé Kelly Miller

Coucher de soleil, 2021
116 x 89 x 3 cm


Carlos Pun, Mona Lisa Pop Art Series ft. El Barto , Michelin , Kermit the Frog, Rolling Stones, Painting

Carlos Pun

Mona Lisa Pop Art Series ft. El Barto , Michelin , Kermit the Frog, Rolling Stones, 2021
90 x 70 x 3 cm


Serghei Ghetiu, Je suis ballerina III, Painting

Serghei Ghetiu

Je suis ballerina III, 2021
75 x 60 x 2 cm


Hope 1393, Jaïna, Painting

Hope 1393

Jaïna, 2021
130 x 97 x 2.5 cm


Sax Berlin, Tanya the red: red rebel brigade, Painting

Sax Berlin

Tanya the red: red rebel brigade, 2021
121.9 x 91.4 x 5.1 cm


James Earley, Dollars And Oil Steal Life, Painting

James Earley

Dollars And Oil Steal Life, 2021
52 x 77 x 3 cm


Dima Filatov, Summer Mood, Painting

Dima Filatov

Summer Mood, 2020
42 x 30 x 1 cm


Michèle Kaus, La fille au foulard, Painting

Michèle Kaus

La fille au foulard, 2021
120 x 30 x 2 cm


Bastien Ducourtioux, Trefoil, Painting

Bastien Ducourtioux

Trefoil, 2020
120 x 100 x 3 cm


Aldéhy, Face à Soie, Painting


Face à Soie, 2021
46 x 38 x 5 cm


Ellina Zhanu, Ewan, Painting

Ellina Zhanu

Ewan, 2021
40 x 30 cm

$692 $866

Pascal Marcel, La surprise, Painting

Pascal Marcel

La surprise, 2020
73 x 60 x 2 cm


Shepard Fairey (Obey), Harmony, Painting

Shepard Fairey (Obey)

Harmony, 2012
62 x 46 x 2 cm


Henriette Barety, Le regard de l'ange, Painting

Henriette Barety

Le regard de l'ange, 1973
38 x 28.5 cm


Béatrice Bescond, Cogito, Painting

Béatrice Bescond

Cogito, 2003
146 x 114 x 2 cm


Amor de Agua, La mère, Painting

Amor de Agua

La mère, 2020
70 x 70 x 2 cm


Upachandra Tilakawardana, Gathering Kekatiya Flowers, Painting

Upachandra Tilakawardana

Gathering Kekatiya Flowers, 2021
62 x 62 cm


Cana, Mire War, Painting


Mire War, 2021
80 x 80 x 5 cm


Stephen and Lorna Kirin, Bella Principessa, Painting

Stephen and Lorna Kirin

Bella Principessa, 2021
56 x 38 x 0.1 cm


Julien Morel, James Brown, Painting

Julien Morel

James Brown, 2018
100 x 100 x 3 cm


Elena O. Matsegora, A Happy Walk, Painting

Elena O. Matsegora

A Happy Walk, 2020
45 x 55 x 2 cm


Manzur Karger, Lips'n'Nails 4, Painting

Manzur Karger

Lips'n'Nails 4, 2021
40 x 50 x 4 cm


Robert van Bolderick, GER, Painting

Robert van Bolderick

GER, 2016
60 x 50 x 2 cm


Jone Hopper, Danseuse jaune, Painting

Jone Hopper

Danseuse jaune, 2021
73 x 60 x 3 cm


Jean-Jacques Venturini, Keith Richards Paper/5, Painting

Jean-Jacques Venturini

Keith Richards Paper/5, 2021
80 x 80 x 3 cm


Frédérique Samama, La Sagesse, Painting

Frédérique Samama

La Sagesse, 2020
92 x 73 x 2 cm


Raymond Moretti, La pensive bleue, Painting

Raymond Moretti

La pensive bleue, 1984
65 x 50 x 2 cm


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