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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


Rien à voir, 2021
25.6 x 19.7 x 0.1 inch


Marian Williams, Sisters, Painting

Marian Williams

Sisters, 2021
7.9 x 7.9 x 0.2 inch


Jazzu, L'amour du cœur, Painting


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


C215, Simone Veil, Painting


Simone Veil, 2021
25.6 x 17.3 x 0.8 inch

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


Francine Van Hove, Il pleut au Luco, Painting

Francine Van Hove

Il pleut au Luco, 2017
18.1 x 24 inch


Francine Van Hove, Blue Camille, Painting

Francine Van Hove

Blue Camille, 2017
23.6 x 23.6 inch


Zena Blackwell, Flamingo Ta Da!, Painting

Zena Blackwell

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


Kapea, It's Joke, Painting


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


Nef, Elles, Painting


Elles, 2021
19.7 x 27.6 inch


OverSide, Basquiat, Painting


Basquiat, 2021
51.2 x 51.2 x 1.1 inch


Gor Avetisyan, A Perception of Passion I, Painting

Gor Avetisyan

A Perception of Passion I, 2021
53.1 x 28.3 inch


Cécile Desserle, Alla Vita, Painting

Cécile Desserle

Alla Vita, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 1.2 inch


Flow, Birds, Painting


Birds, 2020
39.4 x 39.4 x 1.6 inch


Francoise Augustine, Huginn, Painting

Francoise Augustine

Huginn, 2021
25.6 x 19.7 inch


Véronique Clanet, Miss charlotte, Painting

Véronique Clanet

Miss charlotte, 2021
28.7 x 23.6 inch


Nicolaï, Pool scene, Painting


Pool scene, 2021
21.3 x 28.7 x 0.8 inch


Benjamin David, Harimau, Painting

Benjamin David

Harimau, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 inch


Stéphanie Calemard, Family Wax n°20, Painting

Stéphanie Calemard

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


Jordi Sàbat, Bellesa interior I, Painting

Jordi Sàbat

Bellesa interior I, 2021
11.8 x 11.8 inch


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


Clément Verdière, Vie, Painting

Clément Verdière

Vie, 2021
55.1 x 39.4 x 1.6 inch


MesecOlja, Blue India, Painting


Blue India, 2020
47.2 x 31.5 x 1.5 inch


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


Miguel Cadiergues, Où suis-je ? 2, Painting

Miguel Cadiergues

Où suis-je ? 2, 2021
24 x 19.7 inch


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

B. Jung

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


Bertrand Berger, Conversation sur canapé rouge, Painting

Bertrand Berger

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


Serghei Ghetiu, Je suis ballerine V, Painting

Serghei Ghetiu

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


Noah Borger, Elle pleure, Painting

Noah Borger

Elle pleure, 2021
23.6 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch


Albena Vatcheva, Portrait aux perles, Painting

Albena Vatcheva

Portrait aux perles, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 1 inch


Martin, The dog, Painting


The dog, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 1.2 inch


Edmond Li Bellefroid, Toulouse, Painting

Edmond Li Bellefroid

Toulouse, 2021
28.7 x 23.6 x 0.8 inch


Sounya Whang, Femme amoureuse, Painting

Sounya Whang

Femme amoureuse, 2020
11.8 x 15.7 x 0 inch


Sanckoblack, Alma Nøva, Painting


Alma Nøva, 2021
39.4 x 28.7 inch


Ivan Tzonev, Tete J1, Painting

Ivan Tzonev

Tete J1, 2018
11.8 x 11.8 x 0.8 inch


Philippe Pasqua, Sans titre, Painting

Philippe Pasqua

Sans titre, 2018
86.6 x 66.9 x 0.8 inch


Eric Doisy, Bandana, Painting

Eric Doisy

Bandana, 2021
45.7 x 31.9 x 0.8 inch


Le Closier, Amy (blue), Painting

Le Closier

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


David Jamin, Dandy, Painting

David Jamin

Dandy, 2018
11.8 x 11.8 x 0.8 inch


Raf Urban, Hema, Painting

Raf Urban

Hema, 2019
24 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch


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


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


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


Monsengo Shula, Van Gogh Noir, Painting

Monsengo Shula

Van Gogh Noir, 2018
48 x 39.4 x 1 inch


Marie Montagnat, Love #2, Painting

Marie Montagnat

Love #2, 2018
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.8 inch


Anthony Miclo, Phantom #9, Painting

Anthony Miclo

Phantom #9, 2021
36.2 x 25.6 x 0.8 inch

$1,182 $1,313

Alaa Abou Shaheen, Untitled 84, Painting

Alaa Abou Shaheen

Untitled 84, 2021
15.7 x 15.7 inch


Wedad Alnasser, Resonant Self #2, Painting

Wedad Alnasser

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


Patopalomo, Konfina2, Painting


Konfina2, 2021
27.6 x 19.7 x 0.1 inch


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


Bastien Ducourtioux, Space memory, Painting

Bastien Ducourtioux

Space memory, 2019
48.8 x 26.8 x 0.8 inch


Pascal Marlin, Homme et masque, Painting

Pascal Marlin

Homme et masque, 2021
11.8 x 8.3 x 0 inch


Marie Palazzo, #210903, Painting

Marie Palazzo

#210903, 2021
39.4 x 63 x 2 inch


Pasturo, Tête 1, Painting


Tête 1, 2021
43.3 x 31.5 x 1.6 inch


Anastasiia Danilenko, Mistrust, Painting

Anastasiia Danilenko

Mistrust, 2021
19.7 x 15.7 inch

$907 $1,134

Benjamin Duke, Untitled, Painting

Benjamin Duke

Untitled, 2019
15.4 x 13.2 x 2 inch


Anastasiya Akulova, Anna, Painting

Anastasiya Akulova

Anna, 2021
33.5 x 29.5 inch

$1,396 $1,552

Our recommendations Adam Norgaard, Ladybug Leisure, Painting

Adam Norgaard

Ladybug Leisure, 2021
31.5 x 25.6 x 1 inch


Ya-Wei Li, The Portrait, Painting

Ya-Wei Li

The Portrait, 2020
17.7 x 13.8 x 1.6 inch


Lynn Osman, Fear at Scale, Painting

Lynn Osman

Fear at Scale, 2011
31.5 x 31.5 inch


Kayava, Veni, vidi, veci, Painting


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


Kar- Part, Doblador de estilo, Painting

Kar- Part

Doblador de estilo, 2021
20 x 20 x 1.5 inch


Robert Lebsack, Somehow I Know, Painting

Robert Lebsack

Somehow I Know, 2021
12 x 9 inch


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


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