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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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Jéko, Rien à voir, Painting

Jéko

Rien à voir, 2021
25.6 x 19.7 x 0.1 inch
Painting

$1,074

Marian Williams, Sisters, Painting

Marian Williams

Sisters, 2021
7.9 x 7.9 x 0.2 inch
Painting

$149

Jazzu, L'amour du cœur, Painting

Jazzu

L'amour du cœur, 2021
18.1 x 10.6 x 3.9 inch
Painting

$1,074

C215, Simone Veil, Painting

C215

Simone Veil, 2021
25.6 x 17.3 x 0.8 inch
Painting

5,000 - $ 10,000

JM Robert, Urban Face 3, Painting

JM Robert

Urban Face 3, 2021
39.4 x 31.9 x 1.2 inch
Painting

$3,461

Francine Van Hove, Il pleut au Luco, Painting

Francine Van Hove

Il pleut au Luco, 2017
18.1 x 24 inch
Painting

$11,935

Francine Van Hove, Blue Camille, Painting

Francine Van Hove

Blue Camille, 2017
23.6 x 23.6 inch
Painting

$14,322

Zena Blackwell, Flamingo Ta Da!, Painting

Zena Blackwell

Flamingo Ta Da!, 2021
10 x 10 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$839

Kapea, It's Joke, Painting

Kapea

It's Joke, 2021
25.6 x 19.7 x 0.6 inch
Painting

Sold

Nef, Elles, Painting

Nef

Elles, 2021
19.7 x 27.6 inch
Painting

$1,074

OverSide, Basquiat, Painting

OverSide

Basquiat, 2021
51.2 x 51.2 x 1.1 inch
Painting

$3,461

Gor Avetisyan, A Perception of Passion I, Painting

Gor Avetisyan

A Perception of Passion I, 2021
53.1 x 28.3 inch
Painting

$2,017

Cécile Desserle, Alla Vita, Painting

Cécile Desserle

Alla Vita, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 1.2 inch
Painting

$3,223

Flow, Birds, Painting

Flow

Birds, 2020
39.4 x 39.4 x 1.6 inch
Painting

$3,819

Francoise Augustine, Huginn, Painting

Francoise Augustine

Huginn, 2021
25.6 x 19.7 inch
Painting

$1,194

Véronique Clanet, Miss charlotte, Painting

Véronique Clanet

Miss charlotte, 2021
28.7 x 23.6 inch
Painting

$3,652

Nicolaï, Pool scene, Painting

Nicolaï

Pool scene, 2021
21.3 x 28.7 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$2,148

Benjamin David, Harimau, Painting

Benjamin David

Harimau, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 inch
Painting

$1,241

Stéphanie Calemard, Family Wax n°20, Painting

Stéphanie Calemard

Family Wax n°20, 2021
39.4 x 39.4 x 1.2 inch
Painting

$2,387

Jordi Sàbat, Bellesa interior I, Painting

Jordi Sàbat

Bellesa interior I, 2021
11.8 x 11.8 inch
Painting

$895

Serghei Ghetiu, A portrait of a Jewish boy, Painting

Serghei Ghetiu

A portrait of a Jewish boy, 2021
23.6 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$776

Clément Verdière, Vie, Painting

Clément Verdière

Vie, 2021
55.1 x 39.4 x 1.6 inch
Painting

$5,252

MesecOlja, Blue India, Painting

MesecOlja

Blue India, 2020
47.2 x 31.5 x 1.5 inch
Painting

$1,910

Francine Cordier, Entre elles - série Silhouette de femmes, Painting

Francine Cordier

Entre elles - série Silhouette de femmes, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$1,564

Miguel Cadiergues, Où suis-je ? 2, Painting

Miguel Cadiergues

Où suis-je ? 2, 2021
24 x 19.7 inch
Painting

$549

B. Jung, La mère et l'enfant, Painting

B. Jung

La mère et l'enfant, 1952
18.1 x 15 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$650

Bertrand Berger, Conversation sur canapé rouge, Painting

Bertrand Berger

Conversation sur canapé rouge, 1966
43.7 x 34.3 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$1,036

Serghei Ghetiu, Je suis ballerine V, Painting

Serghei Ghetiu

Je suis ballerine V, 2021
31.5 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch
Painting

Sold

Noah Borger, Elle pleure, Painting

Noah Borger

Elle pleure, 2021
23.6 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$298

Albena Vatcheva, Portrait aux perles, Painting

Albena Vatcheva

Portrait aux perles, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 1 inch
Painting

$4,177

Martin, The dog, Painting

Martin

The dog, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 1.2 inch
Painting

$835

Edmond Li Bellefroid, Toulouse, Painting

Edmond Li Bellefroid

Toulouse, 2021
28.7 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$1,432

Sounya Whang, Femme amoureuse, Painting

Sounya Whang

Femme amoureuse, 2020
11.8 x 15.7 x 0 inch
Painting

$537

Sanckoblack, Alma Nøva, Painting

Sanckoblack

Alma Nøva, 2021
39.4 x 28.7 inch
Painting

$2,733

Ivan Tzonev, Tete J1, Painting

Ivan Tzonev

Tete J1, 2018
11.8 x 11.8 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$179

Philippe Pasqua, Sans titre, Painting

Philippe Pasqua

Sans titre, 2018
86.6 x 66.9 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$75,192

Eric Doisy, Bandana, Painting

Eric Doisy

Bandana, 2021
45.7 x 31.9 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$1,671

Le Closier, Amy (blue), Painting

Le Closier

Amy (blue), 2021
35.8 x 29.9 x 0.6 inch
Painting

$1,492

David Jamin, Dandy, Painting

David Jamin

Dandy, 2018
11.8 x 11.8 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$752

Raf Urban, Hema, Painting

Raf Urban

Hema, 2019
24 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$537

Carlos Antonio Sablon Perez, Femme au Chapeau, Painting

Carlos Antonio Sablon Perez

Femme au Chapeau, 2020
27.6 x 19.7 x 1.6 inch
Painting

$7,161

Chloé Kelly Miller, Le but, c’est de le dépasser, Painting

Chloé Kelly Miller

Le but, c’est de le dépasser, 2020
47.2 x 39.4 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$2,387

Mario Henrique, Nebula No. 1, Series II, Painting

Mario Henrique

Nebula No. 1, Series II, 2021
47.2 x 39.4 x 1.6 inch
Painting

$6,500

Monsengo Shula, Van Gogh Noir, Painting

Monsengo Shula

Van Gogh Noir, 2018
48 x 39.4 x 1 inch
Painting

$7,758

Marie Montagnat, Love #2, Painting

Marie Montagnat

Love #2, 2018
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$1,766

Anthony Miclo, Phantom #9, Painting

Anthony Miclo

Phantom #9, 2021
36.2 x 25.6 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$1,182 $1,313

Alaa Abou Shaheen, Untitled 84, Painting

Alaa Abou Shaheen

Untitled 84, 2021
15.7 x 15.7 inch
Painting

$1,250

Wedad Alnasser, Resonant Self #2, Painting

Wedad Alnasser

Resonant Self #2, 2021
31.9 x 29.9 x 1.2 inch
Painting

$2,148

Patopalomo, Konfina2, Painting

Patopalomo

Konfina2, 2021
27.6 x 19.7 x 0.1 inch
Painting

$668

Louis Stecken, Femme dans un fauteuil rouge, Painting

Louis Stecken

Femme dans un fauteuil rouge, 2021
28.7 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch
Painting

Sold

Bastien Ducourtioux, Space memory, Painting

Bastien Ducourtioux

Space memory, 2019
48.8 x 26.8 x 0.8 inch
Painting

$1,408

Pascal Marlin, Homme et masque, Painting

Pascal Marlin

Homme et masque, 2021
11.8 x 8.3 x 0 inch
Painting

$418

Marie Palazzo, #210903, Painting

Marie Palazzo

#210903, 2021
39.4 x 63 x 2 inch
Painting

$7,400

Pasturo, Tête 1, Painting

Pasturo

Tête 1, 2021
43.3 x 31.5 x 1.6 inch
Painting

$1,134

Anastasiia Danilenko, Mistrust, Painting

Anastasiia Danilenko

Mistrust, 2021
19.7 x 15.7 inch
Painting

$907 $1,134

Benjamin Duke, Untitled, Painting

Benjamin Duke

Untitled, 2019
15.4 x 13.2 x 2 inch
Painting

$1,200

Anastasiya Akulova, Anna, Painting

Anastasiya Akulova

Anna, 2021
33.5 x 29.5 inch
Painting

$1,396 $1,552

Our recommendations Adam Norgaard, Ladybug Leisure, Painting

Adam Norgaard

Ladybug Leisure, 2021
31.5 x 25.6 x 1 inch
Painting

$1,500

Ya-Wei Li, The Portrait, Painting

Ya-Wei Li

The Portrait, 2020
17.7 x 13.8 x 1.6 inch
Painting

$2,387

Lynn Osman, Fear at Scale, Painting

Lynn Osman

Fear at Scale, 2011
31.5 x 31.5 inch
Painting

$1,250

Kayava, Veni, vidi, veci, Painting

Kayava

Veni, vidi, veci, 2016
24 x 20.1 x 1.6 inch
Painting

$1,383

Kar- Part, Doblador de estilo, Painting

Kar- Part

Doblador de estilo, 2021
20 x 20 x 1.5 inch
Painting

$2,100

Robert Lebsack, Somehow I Know, Painting

Robert Lebsack

Somehow I Know, 2021
12 x 9 inch
Painting

$250

Thea van Doorn, Orange Compagnons - Series Women and Dog, Painting

Thea van Doorn

Orange Compagnons - Series Women and Dog, 2020
3.9 x 5.9 x 0.1 inch
Painting

$179

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