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Portrait paintings

Carré d'artistes presents a wide selection of portrait paintings. Portrait painting is a privileged genre in art and has undergone a remarkable and fascinating evolution .

The great history of portrait painting

The story

The history of portrait painting begins in antiquity and is believed to be at the origin of plastic arts. The portrait was notably a very popular genre during Greek, Roman and Egyptian times. From the outset, it was seen as a way of representing the divine and the most influential people of an era. In the Middle Ages, in the same way, portraits were reserved for the elite who wanted to create associations with sacred figures. For a long time, this genre was at the service of religion . The concern for realism was not very important at the time. On the contrary, symbols and pious and religious figurations were preferred to the pursuit of any real resemblance.

It was during the Renaissance that portraiture gained momentum. Similarity and realism become necessary components of a good painting. Portrait painting followed developments in Italy and Flanders, where painting was becoming more and more realistic and the art of perspective prevailed. It is easy to understand the significance of this pictorial theme in societies where photography had to appear.

The portrait remained in fashion for a long time. But in the 17th century, in the classical period, it was designated as inferior to history painting, the genre par excellence, which represents major political or religious subjects. Many great painters abandon it for more glorious and better regarded representations. It was in the nineteenth century that portrait paintings regained breath and vigour, although the arrival of photography sharply competed with this genre. Ordinary people gained importance in civilian life, and started to find their way into paintings. The twentieth century continued this momentum and offered novelty to the genre according to the schools and the different styles of painting. The art of portrait therefore remains, even today, a fundamental genre of painting and many contemporary artists practice portrait painting.

Important portrait paintings and painters

During the Renaissance this genre took on considerable importance. It is at this period of history that remarkable paintings start to appear, paintings which have achieved cult status in the history of art.

The painting of the Arnolfini couple by Jan van Eyck (1434) is pivotal achievement, marking the end the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance: the age of realism and perspective is born. In Italy, we can cite the two paintings by Piero della Francesca, a great Florentine painter of the Renaissance. But the best known of this genre is undoubtedly the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. At the same time, we find the magnificent portrait of Baldassare Castiglione by Raphael (1514-1515).

The painting of courtiers was very popular from the 16th to the 18th centuries: the painting of Louis XIV in coronation costume by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701) is representative of this period. In another style, we find Jacques-Louis David: from Napoleon to the important women of his time, and also the assassinated Marat. His painting entitled Madame Récamier (1800) shows off his mastery and taste . But the genre continued to evolve. In his painting the journalist Sylvia von Harden , Otto Dix injects novelty and a decidedly modern spirit in the art. The twentieth century does not abandon this genre, on the contrary, it lends it an extraordinary liveliness .

Techniques and characteristics of portraiture


There is no particular technique for this kind of paintings. The techniques used are related to the paint used: oil or acrylic; and supports: frescoes, wood, canvases, etc. The most important point remains achieving a resemblance (more or less pronounced, according to the style and the time). The sitter should be recognisable. In addition to his appearance, the singular character of a person should come across. The portrait painter paints a person's manner, personality, and perhaps also the feelings he has towards her.


The characteristics that make it possible to quickly recognize a painting of this kind are simple: there is always one person (or several if it is a couple, a group or a family), often in the centre of the painting. It can also be a self-portrait , that is to say that the painter represents himself, more or less faithfully. However, there are several forms: painting (the most common form), drawing, engraving, sculpture, etc. The body is not always fully represented: we find either the head, the bust, up to mid-body, mid-leg, or to the ground (full). The person is painted looking forward, at a three-quarters angle, or in profile. She may be seated, standing, on horseback or lying down. The background of the painting is also important and characterizes an era or a genre of painting. Caricature is also part of the art of portraiture.

At Carré d'artistes, discover unique, contemporary portrait paintings of varied and original contemporary artists, such as Karl Gustavsen, Nathalie Cubero, or Virginie Schroeder, for example.


(1885 Artworks)

1885 Artworks



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