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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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Maciej Ciesla, Between Dream and the Portrait II, Painting

Maciej Ciesla

Between Dream and the Portrait II, 2018
43.3 x 35.4 x 0.8 inch

$1,899 $2,110

Jean-Philippe Berger, Geisha, Painting

Jean-Philippe Berger

Geisha, 2021
27.6 x 7.5 x 0.8 inch


Philippe Pasqua, Etude, Painting

Philippe Pasqua

Etude, 2014
39.4 x 31.9 inch


Maxime Andriot, Caroline, Painting

Maxime Andriot

Caroline, 2019
28.7 x 39.4 x 1.6 inch


Martin, Amy, Painting


Amy, 2017
35.4 x 35.4 x 1.2 inch


JM Robert, Urban Face 4, Painting

JM Robert

Urban Face 4, 2021
39.4 x 31.9 x 1.2 inch


Thierry Carrier, Code 2019, Painting

Thierry Carrier

Code 2019, 2020
51.2 x 63 x 0.8 inch


Milburn-Foster, Let's Dance II, Painting


Let's Dance II, 2021
45.7 x 28.7 inch


Yaroslava Neli Shai, Adriana, Painting

Yaroslava Neli Shai

Adriana, 2021
43.3 x 35.4 x 1.2 inch

$2,569 $2,855

Hildegarde Handsaeme, Happy Flowers, Painting

Hildegarde Handsaeme

Happy Flowers, 2016
39.4 x 31.5 x 1.6 inch


Jana & JS, Take me anywhere, Painting

Jana & JS

Take me anywhere, 2021
11.8 x 7.9 x 0.8 inch


Béatrice Terra, En attendant Yvette, Painting

Béatrice Terra

En attendant Yvette, 2021
36.2 x 28.7 x 0.8 inch


Titouan Lamazou, Made in China, Painting

Titouan Lamazou

Made in China, 2013
40.9 x 57.5 inch

$35,744 $39,716

Edu Danesi, Dirty Rock, Painting

Edu Danesi

Dirty Rock, 2021
43.7 x 38.6 x 1.6 inch


Miss Tic, Je ne travaille pas, je suis travaillée, Painting

Miss Tic

Je ne travaille pas, je suis travaillée, 2020
15 x 18.1 x 0.8 inch

5,000 - $ 10,000

Jérôme Lagarrigue, Head of a Man 1, Painting

Jérôme Lagarrigue

Head of a Man 1, 2021
22.8 x 30.3 inch


KiKo, Balloon Girl Hermès, Painting


Balloon Girl Hermès, 2021
19.7 x 27.6 x 1.6 inch


Philippe Vignal, Giannina, Painting

Philippe Vignal

Giannina, 2021
53.1 x 41.7 x 1.2 inch


DéheL B (DLB), Depardieu, Painting

DéheL B (DLB)

Depardieu, 2021
19.7 x 13 x 6.7 inch


Anne-Marie Cutolo, Enfance n°72, Painting

Anne-Marie Cutolo

Enfance n°72, 2012
45.7 x 35 inch


Pierre-Eugène Vibert, Portrait de jeune femme, Painting

Pierre-Eugène Vibert

Portrait de jeune femme, 1928
14.8 x 12.8 x 0.4 inch


Diane Rosaz, La Chenille, Painting

Diane Rosaz

La Chenille, 2021
40.2 x 29.9 x 1.6 inch


Alice de Miramon, Le bas du soir, Painting

Alice de Miramon

Le bas du soir, 2019
15 x 11 inch


Benjamin David, Guardian, Painting

Benjamin David

Guardian, 2021
25.6 x 21.3 inch


René Romero Schuler, Sylvie, Painting

René Romero Schuler

Sylvie, 2019
29.9 x 29.9 x 2 inch


Bernard Lorjou, Portrait d'enfant, Painting

Bernard Lorjou

Portrait d'enfant, 1953
20.1 x 13 x 0.2 inch


Alexis Gorodine, Menina Azul, Painting

Alexis Gorodine

Menina Azul, 2020
39.4 x 39.4 inch


ARySQUE, Agora, Painting


Agora, 2012
45.7 x 57.5 x 1 inch


Gustavo Bar Valenzuela, Geisha, Painting

Gustavo Bar Valenzuela

Geisha, 2020
47.2 x 47.2 x 1.2 inch


Fuh-mi, Hacked! — Eternity, Painting


Hacked! — Eternity, 2020
49.2 x 39 x 0 inch


Daxx, Promenade de nuit, Painting


Promenade de nuit, 2020
59.1 x 47.2 x 0.8 inch


Philipp Weber, Black Poison, Painting

Philipp Weber

Black Poison, 2020
70.9 x 55.1 inch

100,000 - $ 250,000

Franz Gehri, Jeunes femmes sur le balcon avec vue sur les Alpes, Painting

Franz Gehri

Jeunes femmes sur le balcon avec vue sur les Alpes, 1914
20.5 x 25.4 x 0.6 inch


Blanche Bérat, L'enfant sur le banc, Painting

Blanche Bérat

L'enfant sur le banc, 2013
47.2 x 31.5 x 0.8 inch

$2,132 $2,368

Irena Tone, True Love, Painting

Irena Tone

True Love, 2021
23.6 x 35.4 x 1.4 inch

$1,564 $1,738

Alexander Daniloff, Commedianti, Painting

Alexander Daniloff

Commedianti, 2020
17.7 x 11.8 x 0.1 inch


Joanna Woyda, Girl in a white dress, Painting

Joanna Woyda

Girl in a white dress, 2021
19.7 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch


Sumit Mehndiratta, Beach beauty, Painting

Sumit Mehndiratta

Beach beauty, 2020
46.9 x 35.8 x 1.6 inch


Jean-Baptiste Dumont, Sans titre, Painting

Jean-Baptiste Dumont

Sans titre, 2021
15.7 x 11.8 x 0.8 inch


Mario Henrique, Untitled, Painting

Mario Henrique

Untitled, 2021
39.4 x 39.4 inch


Patricia Simsa, Le salon bleu, Painting

Patricia Simsa

Le salon bleu, 2021
43.3 x 47.2 x 2 inch


Alejandro Moretti, Oh, Monroe, Painting

Alejandro Moretti

Oh, Monroe, 2021
31.5 x 27.6 x 0.4 inch

$596 $1,489

Raphaël Laventure, Tiger's Soul, Painting

Raphaël Laventure

Tiger's Soul, 2017
39.4 x 39.4 x 1.4 inch


Louis Stecken, Visage dans l'herbe III, Painting

Louis Stecken

Visage dans l'herbe III, 2021
15.7 x 15.7 x 0.8 inch


Shepard Fairey (Obey), Harmony, Painting

Shepard Fairey (Obey)

Harmony, 2012
24.4 x 18.1 x 0.8 inch


Lorena Fonsato, Danae, Painting

Lorena Fonsato

Danae, 2021
11.8 x 11.8 x 0.8 inch


Nathan Chantob, Model, Painting

Nathan Chantob

Model, 2021
23.6 x 19.7 x 1.2 inch


Mireia Serra, Capturing Moments, Painting

Mireia Serra

Capturing Moments, 2018
8 x 6 x 6 inch


Marion Duschletta, Say Cheese!, Painting

Marion Duschletta

Say Cheese!, 2019
8 x 8 inch


Tona, Hood, Painting


Hood, 2018
30.7 x 14.6 x 0.8 inch


Gary John, Hendrix Swag, Painting

Gary John

Hendrix Swag, 2016
23 x 22 inch


Alexandre de Poplavsky, Ramona, Painting

Alexandre de Poplavsky

Ramona, 2018
47.6 x 35.8 x 1.6 inch

10,000 - $ 15,000

Martina Niederhauser, Sisters by soul, Painting

Martina Niederhauser

Sisters by soul, 2021
20 x 16 inch


Gilbert Pauli, Les mains jointes, Painting

Gilbert Pauli

Les mains jointes, 2000
14.6 x 10.6 x 0.8 inch


Sarah Elqa, Child of Nature, Painting

Sarah Elqa

Child of Nature, 2020
31.5 x 31.5 x 1.8 inch


Stikki Peaches, L'autre king (Johnny Hallyday), Painting

Stikki Peaches

L'autre king (Johnny Hallyday), 2018
48 x 48 inch


Serghei Ghetiu, Excuse me sir!, Painting

Serghei Ghetiu

Excuse me sir!, 2021
29.5 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch


Alea Pinar Du Pre, Christine, Painting

Alea Pinar Du Pre

Christine, 2018
55.1 x 33.9 x 1.2 inch

25,000 - $ 50,000

Snik, Cold tenderness halftone, Painting


Cold tenderness halftone, 2021
39.4 x 29.1 x 0.1 inch


Tatiana Samoïlova, Absence, Painting

Tatiana Samoïlova

Absence, 2020
11.4 x 8.7 x 0 inch


Bernard Rancillac, Guevara + che, Painting

Bernard Rancillac

Guevara + che, 2004
62.4 x 42.9 x 0.8 inch


Frances Hahn, Wait For It, Painting

Frances Hahn

Wait For It, 2020
34 x 48 x 2 inch


Kamsar Ohanyan, Anora, Painting

Kamsar Ohanyan

Anora, 2021
23.6 x 15.7 x 1.6 inch


Yannick Aaron, Tania, Painting

Yannick Aaron

Tania, 2021
39.4 x 39.4 x 1.2 inch


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