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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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Robert Combas, Prison mentale, Painting

Robert Combas

Prison mentale, 2015
65 x 50 x 10 cm

25,000 - $ 50,000

C215, Regard, Painting


Regard, 2021
65 x 44 x 5 cm


Philippe Pasqua, Etude, Painting

Philippe Pasqua

Etude, 2014
100 x 81 cm


Edu Danesi, Angel bardot, Painting

Edu Danesi

Angel bardot, 2021
120 x 100 x 3 cm


Ewa Hauton, Libre, Painting

Ewa Hauton

Libre, 2021
150 x 120 x 2 cm


Béatrice Terra, En attendant Yvette, Painting

Béatrice Terra

En attendant Yvette, 2021
92 x 73 x 2 cm


Milburn-Foster, Let's Dance II, Painting


Let's Dance II, 2021
116 x 73 cm


KiKo, Balloon Girl Hermès, Painting


Balloon Girl Hermès, 2021
50 x 70 x 4 cm


Jana & JS, Take me anywhere, Painting

Jana & JS

Take me anywhere, 2021
30 x 20 x 2 cm


Pola 4.0, Be ICoNIC #20003, Painting

Pola 4.0

Be ICoNIC #20003, 2020
120 x 100 x 2 cm


Jérôme Lagarrigue, Head of a Man 1, Painting

Jérôme Lagarrigue

Head of a Man 1, 2021
58 x 77 cm


François-Xavier de Boissoudy, Revenir II, Painting

François-Xavier de Boissoudy

Revenir II, 2020
125 x 100 cm


Sylvie Abadie-Bastide, Boy G., Painting

Sylvie Abadie-Bastide

Boy G., 2020
50 x 50 cm


Jean-Philippe Berger, 007 : S. Connery vs U. Andress, Painting

Jean-Philippe Berger

007 : S. Connery vs U. Andress, 2021
50 x 81 x 2 cm


Nef, Dark hope, Painting


Dark hope, 2021
29.7 x 42 cm


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

Miss Tic

Je ne travaille pas, je suis travaillée, 2020
38 x 46 x 2 cm

5,000 - $ 10,000

Béatrice Alice Lafitte-Irigaray, Hossegor, Painting

Béatrice Alice Lafitte-Irigaray

Hossegor, 2019
70 x 50 cm


Brigitte Demange, Leopard, Painting

Brigitte Demange

Leopard, 2021
100 x 100 cm


Francoise Augustine, La femme au rubis, Painting

Francoise Augustine

La femme au rubis, 2021
65 x 50 cm


René Romero Schuler, Famke, Painting

René Romero Schuler

Famke, 2019
137.5 x 91.5 x 4 cm


Roberto De Francisci, Altar Boys, Painting

Roberto De Francisci

Altar Boys, 2013
140 x 145 x 0.1 cm

$1,606 $2,007

Tristan Wu, Contaminated, Painting

Tristan Wu

Contaminated, 2020
120 x 80 x 0.2 cm


Alice de Miramon, Le bas du soir, Painting

Alice de Miramon

Le bas du soir, 2019
38 x 28 cm


Benjamin David, Mr. Kong, Painting

Benjamin David

Mr. Kong, 2021
73 x 60 cm


Zhengyong Liu, Sans titre, Painting

Zhengyong Liu

Sans titre, 1991
77.5 x 54 x 1 cm


Bernard Pelligand, Je ne suis pas bête, Painting

Bernard Pelligand

Je ne suis pas bête, 1997
61.5 x 51 x 2 cm


Anne-Marie Cutolo, Enfance n°72, Painting

Anne-Marie Cutolo

Enfance n°72, 2012
116 x 89 cm


Pierre-Eugène Vibert, Portrait de jeune femme, Painting

Pierre-Eugène Vibert

Portrait de jeune femme, 1928
37.5 x 32.5 x 1 cm


Alexis Gorodine, Menina Azul, Painting

Alexis Gorodine

Menina Azul, 2020
100 x 100 cm


Sandra Paris, Ceux qui ne veulent pas voir 2, Painting

Sandra Paris

Ceux qui ne veulent pas voir 2, 2021
29 x 23 x 0.2 cm


Delphin Enjorlas, Confidences, Painting

Delphin Enjorlas

Confidences, 1920
90 x 81.5 x 0.1 cm

$9,836 $12,295

Olivier Camen, Un grand vent de fleurs, Painting

Olivier Camen

Un grand vent de fleurs, 2009
65 x 100 x 1 cm


Fuh-mi, Hacked! — Eternity, Painting


Hacked! — Eternity, 2020
125 x 99 x 0.1 cm


Martin, Amy, Painting


Amy, 2017
90 x 90 x 3 cm


Keymi, Rumeur encadrée N°709 - Comme une invitation à la suivre, Painting


Rumeur encadrée N°709 - Comme une invitation à la suivre, 2021
64 x 54 x 4 cm


Blanche Bérat, L'enfant sur le banc, Painting

Blanche Bérat

L'enfant sur le banc, 2013
120 x 80 x 2 cm


Irena Tone, True Love, Painting

Irena Tone

True Love, 2021
60 x 90 x 3.5 cm

$1,581 $1,756

Gilbert Pauli, Les mains jointes, Painting

Gilbert Pauli

Les mains jointes, 2000
37 x 27 x 2 cm


Yaroslava Neli Shai, Adriana, Painting

Yaroslava Neli Shai

Adriana, 2021
110 x 90 x 3 cm


Cross Magri, Dali, Painting

Cross Magri

Dali, 2021
150 x 150 x 3 cm

$2,258 $2,509

Raf Urban, Hope #5, Painting

Raf Urban

Hope #5, 2021
46 x 33 x 2 cm


Mario Henrique, Untitled, Painting

Mario Henrique

Untitled, 2021
100 x 100 cm


Patrick Cornée, Amy Winehouse, Time, Pink version, Painting

Patrick Cornée

Amy Winehouse, Time, Pink version, 2021
80 x 80 x 3 cm

$2,823 $3,136

Patricia Simsa, Max et moi, Painting

Patricia Simsa

Max et moi, 2021
100 x 100 x 5 cm


Jean-Baptiste Dumont, Sans titre, Painting

Jean-Baptiste Dumont

Sans titre, 2021
40 x 30 x 2 cm


Louis Stecken, Visage dans l'herbe III, Painting

Louis Stecken

Visage dans l'herbe III, 2021
40 x 40 x 2 cm


Shepard Fairey (Obey), Harmony, Painting

Shepard Fairey (Obey)

Harmony, 2012
62 x 46 x 2 cm


Wedad Alnasser, Resonant Self, Painting

Wedad Alnasser

Resonant Self, 2021
69 x 124 x 4 cm


OverSide, Warhol - OverSide X Sun7, Painting


Warhol - OverSide X Sun7, 2020
100 x 100 x 3 cm


Serghei Ghetiu, The young ballerina dreams II, Painting

Serghei Ghetiu

The young ballerina dreams II, 2021
50 x 60 x 2 cm


Zafi, L'homme au gilet rouge, Painting


L'homme au gilet rouge, 2021
150 x 120 x 2 cm


Guy Ghazanchyan, Portrait with Bird, Painting

Guy Ghazanchyan

Portrait with Bird, 2019
80 x 60 x 2 cm


Flow, Lifestyle, Painting


Lifestyle, 2021
120 x 120 x 3 cm


Aldéhy, La vierge et le Ciel, Painting


La vierge et le Ciel, 2021
46 x 38 x 5 cm


Kamsar Ohanyan, Anora, Painting

Kamsar Ohanyan

Anora, 2021
60 x 40 x 4 cm


Sarah Elqa, I'll Follow The Sun, Painting

Sarah Elqa

I'll Follow The Sun, 2021
100 x 100 x 4.5 cm


Jafet Blanch, Narciso, Painting

Jafet Blanch

Narciso, 2016
46 x 65 x 2.5 cm


Gor Avetisyan, Portraite IX, Painting

Gor Avetisyan

Portraite IX, 2021
63 x 34 cm


Gary John, Hendrix Swag, Painting

Gary John

Hendrix Swag, 2016
58.4 x 55.9 cm


Antoine Stevens, Jasmina, Painting

Antoine Stevens

Jasmina, 2021
150 x 105 x 4 cm


James Earley, Haiti's Revolution, Painting

James Earley

Haiti's Revolution, 2021
51 x 76 x 3 cm


Mireia Serra, Capturing Moments, Painting

Mireia Serra

Capturing Moments, 2018
20.3 x 15.2 x 15.2 cm


Meteo Meteo, Sans titre, Painting

Meteo Meteo

Sans titre, 2021
29.7 x 21 x 0.1 cm


Marcela Zemanova, Deep Blue, Painting

Marcela Zemanova

Deep Blue, 2021
69 x 49 x 0.4 cm


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