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Portrait Artist

The history of art involves many movements, including portrait painting, landscapes and non figurative art of modern times. The portrait artist has always been a prominent figure in the art world. Many artists have depended on money from patrons who commissioned portraits of themselves, their families and friends. Members of royalty and the aristocracy of Europe loved to pose in front of their country estates, their hunting dogs at their side.

Religious art was the dominant force in art over many centuries, with depictions of Christ and John the Baptist being favorite subjects for the portrait artist. The Renaissance was a golden period for portraits and Botticelli, Raphael and da Vinci were at the forefront. Leonardo's Mona Lisa is probably the most famous portrait in the world and no one is sure who she really was.

Dutch artists have been successful in this genre too, such as Jan van Eyck, Anthony van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt. Group portraits became popular, as exemplified in Rembrandt's Night Watch from 1642. English painters have contributed too, particularly in the works of Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds.

French Impressionist artists brought a new dimension to portrait painting, blending a realistic and individual view. Courbet, Manet, Renoir, Monet and Degas were leading examples of portrait artist, breaking down the barriers of convention of their times. Toulouse-Lautrec specialized in capturing the dancers at the theatres that he frequented. Post Impressionists such as Van Gogh and Gauguin were keen portraitists. As with a lot of artists over the years, Van Gogh struggled financially and painted many self-portraits in order to save money on hiring models.

Twentieth century movements experimented with portrait painting, especially in the case of the Cubists. Picasso, Braque and others approached portraits with a geometric method that shocked many art critics at the time. Matisse was another portrait artist who explored new techniques, applying bold colors to his figures.

One of the most collectible portrait painters of recent times is Andy Warhol and his most famous depictions are part of popular culture. He liked the patronage of the rich and famous, such as Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy. As a contemporary portrait artist, he took advantage of the mass production prints that bore his name.

Portraits fell out of favor in the latter part of the twentieth century, along with other realistic forms of art. Some artists are still celebrated in the genre however, such as the English painter, Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud.

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