Portrait Painting Archive

Among the different types of paintings, Portrait Paintings are comprehensive ways to capture a man’s glory, disposition or social stance in one single moment. It is a style which quickly captures the viewer’s attention and gives a quick glimpse in the past of the depicted person or group. Portrait paintings stand strong among the other types of paintings.

Definition of Portrait

According to Oxford Dictionary, “A painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders.”

Though, the last words of the definition aren’t the mandatory properties of a portrait as the type has grown into much more complex and various ways of depicting a person.

Comprehensive Depiction

Portraits could represent a person, an artist or a group of people. They are just the simple depictions of people. Still, they aren’t just profiles of the persons. Sometimes, portraits could tell us more history about the contemporary times than a city’s landscape from the same era.

For instance, during the Dutch Golden age, people were afraid of expressing their pride through an extravagant portrait as it was considered bad during the time. Thus, the total of more than 1 million portraits from that time were mostly dull, expressionless and similar. You won’t get this information in the brilliant vista of a cityscape.

Even the most famous painting in the world is also a portrait. Other famous paintings like Girl with a Pearl Earring and American Gothic are also different types of portrait as you would know about them in detail at here.

Artists would generally have very limited space to include any significant object in the portrait as compared to a Landscape Painting or a Still Life Painting where he can add all the objects he could imagine. Thus, the included objects, scenes, background or other elements would be chosen very carefully to represent the accurate impression of the person or persons portrayed. Artist would care of the littlest details to represent the disposition or the concurrent impression of the person and would eliminate any redundant objects or implications. It is somewhat similar to still-life in which every included element generally holds some meaningful symbolism.

Thus, portraits could embody the person’s disposition, general impression, importance, significance, background, stance in society, history, a specific phase or the whole society’s outlook through a single representative person.

Types of Portraits

According to the subject, context or need of the artist, portrait paintings have developed many types to distinguish or signify different characteristics. Each type has been developed over the different centuries or ages and have matured in today’s portraits. This, findings and techniques of portrait paintings have significantly helped the portrait photography in modern times. You can find a mode called “portrait” in your phone’s camera. The term is derived from here, obviously.

If you haven’t read our post on the Different Types of Portraits, you can read about it on the given link.

Patricia’s series of Venuses has become a note-worthy art-pieces for its radical depictions. Sleeping Venus is a similar work by her. Apocalypse Venus is said to be inspired from the classic work Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. If you are familiar with the classic work (and if not, then click the link to see it), you would find the similarities between Venuses in both paintings. Both are posed as the central figure and central theme of the painting. Though, Patricia in her painting, indicating by the title, has took a radical new approach at depicting the goddess, almost taking the subject to the opposite side of the arc. While Botticelli’s work is showing, as title suggests, the birth of the goddess Venus with all the pleasant environment and auspicious […]


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The subject of ‘Sleeping Venus’ in painting has been around since the Renaissance period. In this art-piece, the American artist, Patricia Watwood has composed the classic subject with refreshing modern aspects and a subtle but strong symbolism. It is another attempt of depicting the popular painting subject in contemporary times as artist in all centuries have tried to do the same according to their own time period, social changes, progression and beliefs. Watwood’s inclusion of technology into the subject could be acclaimed at one of the first. Symbolism of True Love Venus is the goddess of love. The peacock feather earring she is wearing symbolizes the ‘eyes of heaven’, relating to the heavenly connection of the subject matter. The highly sensual depiction of the goddess […]


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The young girl looks like she has been brought to sit on the chair while she was playing in a dusty playground. The innocence, the carelessness and the playfulness of a child is finely depicted in the current portrait of a young tomboyish girl. Alexei Harlamoff  has prominently focused on the girl’s face as we see the natural innocence in the girl’s chubby face and the big eyes. She is looking in vain which makes us more to think about the thoughts she is thinking about. What runs into a child’s mind? Moreover, the deliberate color strokes to create dirty look puts us into the playground of any child. By looking at her we can imagine that she is straightly coming from a playground where her hairs got […]


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Swynnerton’s righteousness in fighting for freedom of speech and expression never gets better than it does in the painting of a quietly confident Henry James. He lived during her times, but he was also an elderly person for her times. He died in 1915, when Swynnerton had already gained recognition as a British political activist, painter and intellectual. Until then, James had left a legacy that was unparalleled by any contemporary visionary, thinker or philosopher. Henry James was one of the most forward-thinking visionaries of the 19th Century. His fight for independent expression resounded with feminists and suffragettes of the time. It is no surprise that Swynnerton would take time out to paint a rather confident-looking portrait of Henry James. Although James looks rather worried […]


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This fine work of art was drawn by an adept English-Irish artist Stephen Catterson Smith. He was born in 1806 in North Yorkshire, England.  He was a distinguished artist, who drew outstanding paintings of royal family of England. The represented painting is an oil-on-panel work. It’s a fine depiction of Queen Victoria of England at the age of 9. Look at the delicacy of her body. Her style of standing with a certain grace makes her more attractive and innocent. The big hat covering the whole face from backside distinguishes the beauty of the face from the rest of the picture. The red straps on her dress’ shoulders, which seem like little roses, are hinting the tenderness of the little girl. We can see her […]


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Red Head is Rhoda Yanow’s pastel-on-paper masterpiece. The work is one among many of his illustrations on Americans and their way of life. Since many of Yanow’s works represent the common masses we can never miss seeing every day, they probably have stories talking about similar things. However, Red Head caught my attention, because it is an ingenious ‘objectification of a woman’, although not so much as it is an objectification of American life. These subtleties are important for me when I look at a painting and try to put a value on it. The pastel work has a lilting note to it, and I would personally have it hung in a partially obstructed wall, but which has a specially bright light. Given the regular […]


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Old paintings have their charm, but this one by Cristofano dell’Altissimo is more than just beautiful, imposing or appealing. It is all three, and revolutionary as well, because dell’Altissimo belonged to a time when Ethiopians were regarded to be a little different from humans! Moreover, the Ethiopia of then included other neighboring regions, from where western explorers had brought back stark stories and captivating descriptions of their cross-continental friends and foes. Dell’Altissimo’s work centers around the impression people started having about African kings when the world started its drive into “modern history”. The painter’s contemporaries had a beastly impression of African rulers and their subjects because of their way of life in a drastically different climate and geography. Although Europeans had not been there before, […]


Womanly love, simple affections and childlike adoration are probably more endured than expected perhaps. However, Sims has gone all the way to imagine himself in this position and paint it for hours. The beautiful blue of the sheath is something men usually like around their women, bedroom and beds. Be it curtains, lighting drapes, bedsheets, a woman’s clothing drape or any such swishing element is always a place to dig. Back to the painting – Digging in your head, or snuggling into your favorite smell are all feelings and words you can never think of someone having propped up into a vivid painting – but that is exactly what Sims has done! The thistle in the foreground, almost buried in the subtlety of Sims’ colors […]


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Among contemporary artists, Tenaya Sims is perhaps the most legible with his work in my opinion. His subjects are often dark, but every detail in his paintings is remarkably prominent. They have the tendency of leaving you in contemplation, much like Sherlock Holmes. “The Alchemist” is an oil-on-canvas from Sims, who has probably shown himself in it. Charming and smiling in real life, Sims has made his man, only physically, a splitting resemblance of himself. Speaking of alchemy, many do believe that today’s quacks are tomorrow’s scientists! Tenaya Sims is a modern man, unlike those tragic lives who painted their last works with their own blood. Sims has been an industrial figure as well. With prominent contributions in sculpture, painting and drawings, Sims has a […]


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