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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
57.5 x 44.9 x 1.2 inch


Jazzu, Somewhere, Painting


Somewhere, 2020
15.7 x 11.8 x 1.2 inch


Miss Fuck, Pensif, Painting

Miss Fuck

Pensif, 2021
36.2 x 23.6 x 1 inch


Thierry Carrier, Code 2101, Painting

Thierry Carrier

Code 2101, 2021
51.2 x 35 x 1.2 inch


Martine Fauve Dechavanne, Champagne en musique, Painting

Martine Fauve Dechavanne

Champagne en musique, 2020
31.5 x 31.5 x 1.2 inch


Milburn-Foster, Femme sur la Plage, Painting


Femme sur la Plage, 2021
39.4 x 28.7 inch


Hom Nguyen, Human, Painting

Hom Nguyen

Human, 2021
78.7 x 78.7 x 2 inch

25,000 - $ 50,000

Olivier Massebeuf, Nocturne, Painting

Olivier Massebeuf

Nocturne, 2021
51.2 x 35 x 0.8 inch


Ora Ora, Skateboard - Moise, Painting

Ora Ora

Skateboard - Moise, 2021
31.5 x 7.9 x 1.2 inch


Miss Tic, Et Bien Dansez Maintenant, Painting

Miss Tic

Et Bien Dansez Maintenant, 2014
51.2 x 38.2 x 1.2 inch

15,000 - $ 25,000

Mino Maccari, The Scarecrow, Painting

Mino Maccari

The Scarecrow, 1960
8.1 x 5.9 x 0 inch


Els Knockaert, Soatsaki, Painting

Els Knockaert

Soatsaki, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 2 inch


Fabien Novarino, 911 and Pink, Painting

Fabien Novarino

911 and Pink, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 0.4 inch


Jean-Philippe Berger, We want to change the world, Painting

Jean-Philippe Berger

We want to change the world, 2021
31.5 x 15.7 x 1.2 inch


Marie KVK, La jeune fille à la perle - golden, Painting

Marie KVK

La jeune fille à la perle - golden, 2021
47.2 x 31.5 x 1.8 inch


Jérôme Bouscarat, L'oiseau chasseur, Painting

Jérôme Bouscarat

L'oiseau chasseur, 2021
28.7 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch


Henry Meylan, Jeune Japonaise à l'éventail et au violon, Painting

Henry Meylan

Jeune Japonaise à l'éventail et au violon, 1974
21.7 x 18.1 x 0.8 inch


Luigi Corbellini, Portrait de jeune fille, Painting

Luigi Corbellini

Portrait de jeune fille, 1946
14 x 10.6 x 0.8 inch


Francoise Augustine, Inari, Painting

Francoise Augustine

Inari, 2021
25.6 x 19.7 inch


Frédérique Assaël, Samuel, Painting

Frédérique Assaël

Samuel, 2021
51.2 x 38.2 x 1.2 inch


Percival Pernet, Jeune femme à la lecture, Painting

Percival Pernet

Jeune femme à la lecture, 1957
28.7 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch


André Lanskoy, La famille, Painting

André Lanskoy

La famille, 1940
5.5 x 7.5 x 0.4 inch


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

Franz Wanger

Artiste et modèle à l'atelier, 1924
28.7 x 22.8 x 0.4 inch


Jéko, 17h25 dans le jardin, Painting


17h25 dans le jardin, 2020
25.6 x 19.7 x 0.1 inch


Philippe Pasqua, Visage I, Painting

Philippe Pasqua

Visage I, 2012
78.7 x 59.1 x 1.2 inch


Mauro Maugliani, Ring of Fire, Painting

Mauro Maugliani

Ring of Fire, 2021
39.4 x 39.4 x 1.2 inch


Ernesto Ercolani, Romantic Self-Portrait, Painting

Ernesto Ercolani

Romantic Self-Portrait, 1960
18.8 x 26 x 0 inch


DN, Goku, Painting


Goku, 2021
31.5 x 9.4 x 0.4 inch


Alexander Daniloff, Lupi di mare, Painting

Alexander Daniloff

Lupi di mare, 2017
3.9 x 8.3 x 0.1 inch


Raya Sorkine, Le banquet, Painting

Raya Sorkine

Le banquet, 1990
10.6 x 8.7 x 0.8 inch


B.AX, Art Station, Painting


Art Station, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 inch


Mario Henrique, Somnium No. 4, Series IX, Painting

Mario Henrique

Somnium No. 4, Series IX, 2021
39.4 x 39.4 inch


Lucas Ninin, La Joven de la Perla, Painting

Lucas Ninin

La Joven de la Perla, 2021
39.4 x 31.5 x 1.6 inch


Manuel Santelices, Prada Bag Ladies, Painting

Manuel Santelices

Prada Bag Ladies, 2021
12 x 9 x 0.1 inch


Patricia Simsa, L’as de cœur, Painting

Patricia Simsa

L’as de cœur, 2021
39.4 x 39.4 x 2 inch


Marie Montagnat, En coulisse 2, Painting

Marie Montagnat

En coulisse 2, 2017
39.4 x 39.4 x 1.6 inch


Raf Urban, Hope #7, Painting

Raf Urban

Hope #7, 2021
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.8 inch


Christopher Henry, Téléphone Rose, Painting

Christopher Henry

Téléphone Rose, 2021
7.5 x 6.1 x 0 inch


Chloé Kelly Miller, Coucher de soleil, Painting

Chloé Kelly Miller

Coucher de soleil, 2021
45.7 x 35 x 1.2 inch


Marta Grassi, De retour, Painting

Marta Grassi

De retour, 2021
57.1 x 27.6 x 0.8 inch


Hope 1393, Maliha, Painting

Hope 1393

Maliha, 2021
8 x 12 inch


Meteo Meteo, Sans titre, Painting

Meteo Meteo

Sans titre, 2021
11.7 x 8.3 x 0 inch


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
35.4 x 27.6 x 1.2 inch


Yaroslava Neli Shai, Jane, Painting

Yaroslava Neli Shai

Jane, 2021
39.4 x 47.2 x 1.2 inch


Nathan Chantob, Concession, Painting

Nathan Chantob

Concession, 2021
39.4 x 39.4 x 2 inch


Virut Panchabuse, Yellow Hooded, Painting

Virut Panchabuse

Yellow Hooded, 2021
66.9 x 55.1 x 1.6 inch


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

Sax Berlin

Tanya the red: red rebel brigade, 2021
48 x 36 x 2 inch


Shepard Fairey (Obey), Harmony, Painting

Shepard Fairey (Obey)

Harmony, 2012
24.4 x 18.1 x 0.8 inch


Aldéhy, Face à Soie, Painting


Face à Soie, 2021
18.1 x 15 x 2 inch


Bastien Ducourtioux, Trefoil, Painting

Bastien Ducourtioux

Trefoil, 2020
47.2 x 39.4 x 1.2 inch


Serghei Ghetiu, The one way ticket, Painting

Serghei Ghetiu

The one way ticket, 2021
23.6 x 29.5 x 0.8 inch


James Earley, Dollars And Oil Steal Life, Painting

James Earley

Dollars And Oil Steal Life, 2021
20.5 x 30.3 x 1.2 inch


Cana, Mire War, Painting


Mire War, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 2 inch


Henriette Barety, Ensemble, Painting

Henriette Barety

Ensemble, 1972
15 x 11.2 inch


Dima Filatov, Summer Mood, Painting

Dima Filatov

Summer Mood, 2020
16.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inch


Jone Hopper, Danseuse jaune, Painting

Jone Hopper

Danseuse jaune, 2021
28.7 x 23.6 x 1.2 inch


Craig Alan, Populus: Audrey “At First Glance”, Painting

Craig Alan

Populus: Audrey “At First Glance”, 2018
38 x 32 x 2 inch


Corinne Asseraf, Warhol, Painting

Corinne Asseraf

Warhol, 2021
48 x 36 x 1.5 inch


Julien Morel, James Brown, Painting

Julien Morel

James Brown, 2018
39.4 x 39.4 x 1.2 inch


Hunt Slonem, Untitled | Abe, Painting

Hunt Slonem

Untitled | Abe, 2014
18.5 x 13.5 inch


Ellina Zhanu, Ewan, Painting

Ellina Zhanu

Ewan, 2021
15.7 x 11.8 inch

$697 $871

Anne Siems, Forest Lover, Painting

Anne Siems

Forest Lover, 2020
24 x 17.9 x 0 inch


Gor Avetisyan, Love II, Painting

Gor Avetisyan

Love II, 2021
24.8 x 13 inch


Art’No., Paola, Painting


Paola, 2020
19.7 x 19.7 inch


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