The Modern Portrait.
On my many trips to Paris, home of the Mona Lisa, I have found it intriguing to discover that the French are disinclined to consider modern portraiture. Paintings of their homes and beloved pets, certainly, but a painting of themselves, "Non"! They will happily acquire many other genres too, but mention the possibility of a portrait and even the most self assured become coy and self conscious.
Is it because the French associate portraiture with the most famous portrait in the world? Can there only be Leonardo's Mona Lisa? Probably not, because their galleries and museums are full of portraits. Perhaps it's because of the French Revolution; Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1830) is certainly their most prized artwork and the personified Liberty symbolises the French Republic. French art displayed in homes and workplaces happily celebrates: nature, beauty, abstraction, history and even figurative compositions but the portrait continues to be neglected, probably because it is considered to verge on the bourgeois, elitist and grandiose.
Sadly, this is where I think they are mistaken. The emotions and expressions displayed on a human face can be inspirational. In 2020 a portrait should neither be viewed as elitist nor grandiose. Rather it is a piece of figurative artwork which relates to the sitter and makes a relevant observation about the time in which we live.
Em (2020) by Diana
For an adult sitter, at the simplest level it can be a straightforward depiction of a moment in time, merely capturing an expression or a mood. In this case the bright intellect and lively enquiring mind of the subject.
Shirley (2010) by Diana
For others it can prove to be a psychological journey which enables an exploration of their identity and persona through the eyes of another human being and capturing their essence and uniqueness.
The Conductor (2011) by Diana
For some it is a truly amazing cathartic journey of self discovery. It encourages the sitter a moment of introspection and self reflection, and provides a reason to consider what it really means to be them.
JM by Diana
Sometimes, the work will celebrate the inner beauty, sometimes the energy, and sometimes the knowledge and wisdom of the subject, but the artist will always attempt to capture the inherent character.
Hide and Seek (2009) by Diana
For some the painting will mark an achievement or a milestone but for whatever reason the portrait has been commissioned, the end result should produce an artwork that pleases both artist and sitter and is a unique comment on the human condition.
Race Winner (2019) by Diana
Modern portraiture obviously requires the production of a likeness. However, these days, likenesses are reproduced continually in the form of photographic selfies, especially on social media. It is essential that today's painted portraits are more than this.
2020 by Diana
As well as a resemblance, the artwork ideally needs social relevance, and must encapsulate the unique depth and charm of the individual. This ensures that the portrait, as an artwork, is of interest to more than the associates of the sitter.
Issy (2013) by Diana
It is a unique experience to own an artwork which captures the essence of you at a moment in time. This moment and your distinctive character, and the physical attributes that go together to make you who you are, can then be appreciated for years to come.
As the years go by, just as revisiting a familiar piece of music can bring memories and emotions flooding back, so too can viewing yourself in a painting, only perhaps it is even more poignant.