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Portrait Artists

In painting, a portrait is a depiction of one or several people, in which a visual image is created in order not only to portray the appearance of a person, but also to show their inner world. The genre reached its peak when the faith in people and the power of their mind was very strong: anthropocentrism is strongly pronounced in the paintings by Renaissance masters, who created beautiful expressive portraits.

The first attempts to depict a person were made back in antiquity. Scientists have repeatedly found drawings made with chalk or charcoal, which, however, lacked individuality. Schematic images with no personal features of the subject's appearance can hardly be considered a portrait in the modern sense. The first portrait paintings include the Fayum mummy portraits – strikingly realistic works made in the encaustic technique that replaced death masks in Roman Egypt. From the dawn of time, portraits have carried some elements of mysticism, cult and magic: for many peoples, it was the similarity that was of great importance for ensuring that the soul would return to its body.

The evolution of portrait painting is closely related to the development of science, in particular, anatomy, as well as the development of technical skills, change of ideas and vision of people and the value of the concept of personality. Paintings by Renaissance artists are distinguished by clarity and expressiveness of their images, though somewhat idealized. This time is considered to be a turning point for the genre: the most significant portraits, famous throughout the world, were created in the Renaissance. Suffice it to recall the names of such portrait painters as Raphael, Giorgione, Titian, Dürer, and many others. Probably the most famous portrait painting in history, Mona Lisa, was created by Leonardo da Vinci in accordance with the then philosophical ideas about people and the importance of their individuality.

It should be mentioned that the primary focus in portrait paintings is always on a life of a particular subject that existed in the past or currently exists, and can be placed in a certain environment or depicted in any image. This explains a quite large number of subgenres: portraits can be historical, posthumous, family, religious or costume ones. However, it's a person who is always of first importaince on the artists’ canvas.

Famous portrait painters of the past and present

From the Renaissance onwards, each period has a lot of brilliant masters of this genre, each of whom painted in their own unique manner. The list of outstanding portrait painters of the 14th – 15th centuries includes Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli, Giotto, Pinturicchio and others. A distinctive feature of their works was that their models were placed in a natural environment: depicted against the background of a landscape or interior, harmoniously blended with the world around them and interacted with it. These techniques are especially noticeable in the works by the representatives of Dutch art: Jan van Eyck and Robert Campin. The most famous masters, whose works are still admired by virtuosos and art lovers, were Dürer, Fouquet and Holbein.

In the 17th century, after several decades of decline of art and the domination of mannerism, there appeared new forms of portrait painting, which became more affordable. Representatives of all social groups became portrayed in the works, and artists tried to reflect the complexity of a person's inner world in their works. The famous names of this period are Rembrandt, Rubens, VelázquezPoussin and many others.

The 17th – 19th centuries were a time of searching for ideas, the emergence of new directions and crises in art. Among the talented portrait painters of these two centuries, Gainsborough, Goya, David, DelacroixRenoir and Degas stand out in particular. Later, van Gogh and Cézanne started their artistic careers; in Russia, the works by Peredvizhniki (The Wanderers) became popular.

Our portal contains photos of portrait paintings, created by the greatest masters of the past, as well as works by contemporary artists, both little-known and popular ones. Sign up to our website and get access to one of the largest virtual art galleries!
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