Portraiture is the representation of individual people with the help of visual art. Art is associated with the description of the individual’s character regarding her social position, occupation, and wealth. When we look at the portrait or sculpture, we can define the social position and character of the depicted subject. We recognize whether he is rich or poor, smart or blunt, young or old. What is more, it is possible to define the profession of the subject due to the presented attributes that fit the general stereotype about every occupation. We will quickly recognize a king, doctor, soldier, etc. when we take a look at the subject’s clothes and accessories. Portraiture is one of the most popular kinds of visual art. Its history is long and engrossing. I am going to analyze the types of portraits and the factors that make artists execute them.
Nearly everyone believes that a perfect portrait should be based on likeness. Painting, sculpture or photograph of a person should at least resemble this person. Many people think that the quality of a portrait depends on the artist’s skill to create a photographic likeness of the depicted subject. Nearly every famous and rich person wanted to get her portrait. No wonder, the majority of kings and other noble people had their portraits in the form of painting or sculpture. They wanted their pictures to possess all possible attributes of their power and position. Ordinary citizens enjoyed pictures too. However, these portraits served as the documentation of the subject’s appearance for the younger generations of his/her family. Finally, they focused on the profession of this person. We can also speak about self-portraits. Many artists made attempts of executing self-portraits. They wanted to preserve their appearance in stone, wood or canvas.
They knew that a portrait makes its owner immortal. The memory about the painting’s subject remains forever. Thus, we remember about famous kings and public figures due to the paintings that have survived through the hundreds of years.
However, it is impossible to say that paintings are based on likeness. Many portraits do not resemble the subjects depicted on them. There are abstract and psychological portraits that focus mainly on the associations and attributes that define the subject’s personality. If you pay attention to any paintings executed by impressionists and cubists, you will never identify the depicted person. Such artists dwell on the subject’s traits of character and emotional condition.
It is noteworthy to say that in Eastern cultures artists pay less attention to likeness than in Western cultures. For instance, if you look at the portraits of Japanese shoguns or Chinese emperors, you will never find any difference between them. Artists depicted a son in the same way as they executed his grandfather. Faces and postures were the same. Western cultures are based on the emphasis of the person’s originality. They tried to notice every distinct feature of the subject’s appearance to make her portrait authentic.
Why is portraiture so vital? A portraiture is a predominant form of art for anthropology and human history. Due to sculptures and paintings, we can learn about the appearance of the people who lived many centuries ago. We can learn about their clothes, traditions, attributes, fashion, and values. What is more, portraiture helps us understand the standards of beauty? The standard of beauty has changed every decade. With the run of time, we can see that men appreciated fat, suntanned, skinny or pale women. It is possible to say that every portrait is a credible and objective evidence of the accepted standard of beauty. When a woman wanted to have her portrait, she tried to be as attractive as she could. Thus, we can say which women were supposed to be pretty 100 or 300 years ago.
It’s hard to define the best type of portraiture according to its likeness or accuracy.
When we speak about sculpture, it is hard to depict a human character with its help. Painting one’s face in the marble is hard. Painting is much better. An artist can represent the subject’s character with the aid of various artistic tricks. He uses color and shape to reveal the subject’s nature. If we speak about photography, this art is very complicated. On the one hand, photography represents the subject accurately. However, it’s hard to capture the moment that will reveal his actual personality and temperament.