What Is Portrait Art?

Portrait art is an artist’s representation of a subject’s face and facial expressions displayed by either a painting, sculpture, photograph or any other medium in which the artist has chosen.

The ultimate goal of the portrait artist is to capture the likeness and personality of the chosen subject. It is also considered desirable to capture the personality of the subject as well.

Portrait art by definition is meant to capture the mood of the subject by the portrait artist. The mood may be captured using a variety of equipment such as effective accent lighting and backdrops.

The portrait can be represented in various ways such as profile, full or three-quarter view. This would describe photography or paintings since the portrait sculpture would be represented in the third dimension.

A portrait can be of an individual or a group of individuals such as a family. Photographic portraiture can be created for school yearbooks, family memories, drivers licenses, weddings or other special occasions.

The portrait artist will often create a painting, sculpture or photographic portrait of themselves called a self-portrait. Self-portraiture has been found in history as far back as the art found on the walls of cave dwellings.

The history of portrait art and portraiture in general dates back thousands of years and was usually created to represent a political type of leader. Many portraiture creations lacked individual features but were rather a physical representation of the ruler.

Some early portraits that have been discovered were from the ancient Egyptian region and were funeral portraits. Perhaps the dry, arid desert climate facilitated the preservation of such portraits.

The art of the portrait became more prevalent in Ancient Greece with sculpture being the preferred medium for portrait art. The subjects who sat for such portrait sculpture demanded realistic features even if the requested features were considered unflattering.

In South America, portrait art was used in the ancient Moche culture found in Peru. Some of this portrait art displayed highly accurate detail and individuals were easily recognizable without symbols or writings to represent their identities.

Portraits of warriors, priests, rulers and sometimes even artists were represented in portrait art in various stages of their lives. However, to date, it is not known if portraiture was created to represent women.

Portraiture photography is extremely popular worldwide in the form of family portraits, whether in paintings or photographs. Many families have numerous family portraits displayed throughout their homes.

Portrait photography has become more popular in the mid-nineteenth century due to being more affordable than to sit for a portraiture artist and have your portrait painted. Challenges were present in the results due to the long 30 second exposure times.

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