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History of The Portrait

Throughout the history, people have sought to perpetuate their image for descendants. The history of the genre begins with the portrait sculpture in Ancient Egypt, which followed strict canons. In Ancient Greece there was no realistic portrait for a very long time. The sculpture was created in accordance with the perfect canon of beauty. And only in the Hellenistic era the individual portrait was established. Ancient Roman statues and busts are considered to be the most realistic examples of the portrait.

In the Middle Ages there was a complete decline of the genre. The artist and sculptor of this era create works in accordance with the strict canons of the church. At the same time, in the East, in more favorable conditions, the masters create secular portraits with individual traits. With the change of ideology in the Renaissance, a rebirth of the portrait genre is taking place. Technological progress was also an important factor: invention and widespread use of oil, fabric for the canvas, brushes and masticines. The masters of this period idealized the model, but at the same time tried to convey its essence. By 1500, the female and male portraiture had became one of the predominant genres of painting. With the beginning of such an artistic style as Mannerism, the group portrait appears, and the historic portrait gains momentum.

In the 17th century the Dutch portraiture masters reached the peak of the portrait genre. Its democratization takes place: people of different social, national and age groups are portrayed. The aspiration for self-knowledge promotes development of the genre of self-portrait. In the beginning of the 18th century, the portrait becomes less important. French culture dictates fashion for the court portrait.

Creating paintings using cheaper materials (engraving, watercolor) is typical for the second half of the 18th century. If initially portraits could be only ordered by the aristocracy, over time, this genre enveloped all layers of society.

Classicism of the 19th century brings austerity, the portrait loses its grandeur. With the invention of the photo a genre of the photo portrait appears. In turn it stimulates the search for new forms of scenic, sculptural and graphic portraiture. The graphics of this period is represented by drawings in pencil and charcoal.

Before the advent of impressionism in the middle of the 19th century, painters usually created portraits in their studios. The Impressionists broke the traditional canons and began to work outdoors.

In the 20th century the portrait is in decline, although searches for alternative realistic means continue. In the second half of the 20th century new materials for the painter`s work appear - acrylic, silkscreen, collage. However, interest in the genre dies out as a result of the development of abstract art.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the genre was revived, which is associated with such a trend in art as a pop art that uses a face without any distortion. At the same time, the genre of the photo portraiture is actively developing. Before the revolution in Russia, the family portrait was popular: the parents sat in the center, children surrounded them - and the photographer took a picture. In the 21st century the magazine cover replaces the realistic portrait. Given the rapid rhythm of modern life, artists increasingly have to write portraits from photography.

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Famous Portrait Painters

Portrait art originated in ancient times. The first portraitists were ancient Egyptians. However, the flowering of the genre and its penetration into easel painting dates back to the Renaissance.

The genius artist Leonardo da Vinci is the author of the most famous portrait in the world "Mona Lisa" (1503-1505), which formed a new canon of the secular portrait. The late period of the artist`s work includes the famous "Self-portrait" painted on paper with the help of sanguine.

The bright representative of the West European Renaissance Albrecht Dürer actively worked in the genre of the graphic portrait. He is considered the ancestor of the self-portrait ("Self-portrait", 1550).

The Spanish artist El Greco was an excellent portraitist, able not only to depict the features of the face of the model, but also to convey his character. His most famous works are "The Portrait of an Older Nobleman" (ca. 1580) and "Portrait of the Inquisitor Nino de Guevara" (1600).

Flemish artist Antonis van Dyck was a court painter in England and painted portraits of members of the royal family ("The Triple Portrait of Charles I"). The type of idealized ceremonial portrait created by him became a model for the subsequent generation of masters.

The creative heritage of the Spanish painter Diego Velasquez includes numerous portraits. He was a court painter and was popular as a portrait painter with the Spanish nobility (Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1650 and Portrait of King Philip IV, 1656).

The Representative of the realistic direction in the French art of the 18th century Jean-Baptiste Chardin is considered the master of genre scenes, which are hidden portraits. In the last years of his life, he created several portraits in the technique of pastel (Self portrait, 1775).

The French painter Gustave Courbet was one of the founders of realism. He created a large number of self-portraits (his first painting "Self-portrait with a dog" in 1844 took part in the Paris Salon).

The portraits of one of the founders of Impressionism, Eduard Manet, are characterized by subtle psychology. The main characters of his work were contemporaries. He painted full length figures with quick, decisive brush strokes.

The most striking representative of pop art, Andy Warhol, is known primarily for portraits of pop stars made in the technique of "coloring the photo" (images of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley).

The most famous photo portrait of the 20th century is the photograph "Portrait of Che Guevara" 1960 by Cuban photographer Alberto "Corda" Gutierrez. The portrait was released in the form of a poster immediately after the revolutionary`s death and sold in millions of copies, eventually turning into a trademark.

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Portrait Technique

Portrait - An image of a person or a group of people, made with the help of artistic devices and images. The history of the genre has been around for millennia, but the way to realistic portraiture was very long.

On the basis of the purpose, form, character of the performance we distinguish different types of portrait: easel, monumental, ceremonial, intimate, bust, full-length, full face, profile, etc.

A specific type is the self-portrait. Many artists created their self-portraits. Sometimes they placed their own image in a group portrait.

There are various painting techniques: pencil, oil on canvas, dry brush, watercolor, etc.

The earliest portraits were performed in the technique of encaustics (wax painting by melted paints).

The portrait in oils remains the most popular pictorial technique. Its flowering dates back to the Renaissance when the means of artistic expressiveness (airial perspective, colorist discoveries) were updated.

Somewhat less common are portraits in watercolor. This technology conveys all shades of color range and allows you to recreate the smallest details.

The pastel helps to establish a close contact between the artist and the material. It is a great way to paint gentle portraits.

The technique "dry brush" looks like a pencil drawing. The artist uses oil paints and watercolor paper in his work. Such a portrait is characterized by maximum similarity, and also conveys volume.

The pencil portrait is the easiest option, however, it allows you to completely transfer the texture, light, volume, mood and emotions.

With the invention of photography appears the genre of photo portraiture. The first images were created in the technique of daguerreotyping, which required an exposure of half an hour. Errors in the pictures were corrected by retouch artists manually, as well as sometimes they painted the portrait with watercolor. Over time, a number of inventions helped reduce the exposure time and gave the ability to reproduce images in unlimited amount.

In spite of the rapid development of photo art, the picturesque portrait remains valid. However, if earlier the picture was created from nature, in the modern era, artists can paint a portrait from a photograph.

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