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The Art of the Portrait

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Portraiture is a staple of Western art history. In the Medieval period, Europe abandoned the portrait tradition for stylized, otherworldly, religious imagery, but the genre’s presence has not otherwise faltered since the Renaissance. Along with reviving ancient visual sensibilities, the portrait’s resurgence indicated growing exploration of individualism. The three-quarter positioning of the sitter became dominant in the Renaissance, allowing viewers to access the sitter’s internal self. A good way to trace the portrait is through amounts of imagined beauty. Greek sculptors idealized their subjects so much that they were unrecognizable, Renaissance and Baroque painters painted exaggerated favorable features of their patrons; by the 19th century, Realists depicted the working class with blunt honesty, and in the 20th century, Fauvists, Expressionists, and Modernists experimented with color and brushstroke to capture emotion—often rendering their sitters in garish color and with unappealing proportions.

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Works

Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa
Lady with an Ermine
Lady with an Ermine
Portrait of a Man
Portrait of a Man
Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More
Girl With a Pearl Earring
Girl With a Pearl Earring
The Grande Odalisque
The Grande Odalisque
Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets
Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets
The Desperate Man (Self-portrait)
The Desperate Man (Self-portrait)
The Post Man
The Post Man
Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)
Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)