Portrait Curriculum 1

This video is an overview of a portraiture in contemporary art and art history. There are many categories of portraits: portraits for editorial illustration, portrait commissions, allegorical portraits, self-portraits, surreal portraits, anonymous portraits and more.

Several examples of each type of portrait are shown and discussed in depth. Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artists Alex Rowe and Lauryn Welch.

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Video Walkthrough

  • “Overused” portraits that you see over and over again everywhere.
  • With portraits being such an immense subject, our video is a tiny fraction of what’s out there.
  • The is a lot of overlap in the categories presented in the slideshows, many portraits fit in more than 1 category.
  • Rembrandt did more self-portraits than any artist, painting several each year of his life resulting in a lifetime of portraits
  • Portrait commissions are when a client hires an artist to create a portrait, usually for people in high society or positions of power.
  • The Obama portraits were bold commissions that broke from the tradition of stale, realistic presidential portraits.
  • Editorial portraits are seen in magazines, online publications, newspapers.
  • Portraits in publications are commissioned by an art director and generally have a lot more creative freedom in image and vision.
  • Portraits of famous people are perceived differently as you are likely viewing the portrait with prior knowledge of the person.
  • Self-Portraits are a “rite of passage” for many artists and have potential for deep reflection and exploration of identity.
  • Surrealistic portraits provide the opportunity to create fantastical worlds.
  • Religious portraits were often portraits commissioned by the church.
  • Other religious portraits can be comments and interpretations on spirituality or a response to the history of religious art.
  • Family portraits provide a look at the dynamics between the family members, as well as a depiction of specific time periods, culture, and class.
  • Portraits of everyday people are important images that capture time period through context, clothing, and more.
  • Fictional characters from literature, mythology, folklore are continually being interpreted throughout the centuries and years.
  • Portraits of fictional characters have a familiarity in that they have a narrative many people know.
  • Portraits of anonymous people, where their identity is intentionally withheld can be powerful statements of groups of people.
  • Removing the eyes from a portrait is a common way to show anonymity in a portrait.
  • Allegorical and symbolic portraits are when portraits represent abstract ideas or become metaphors.

Full Curriculum

Overview · Portrait 1 · Portrait 2

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Artists Mentioned

  • Frida Kahlo
  • Chuck Close
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Rembrandt
  • Nelson Shanks
  • John Singer Sargent
  • Robert Hunt
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Albrecht Dürer
  • Cindy Sherman
  • Omar Rayyan
  • Anita Kunz
  • Margaret Keane
  • Junji Ito
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder
  • Joy Labinjo
  • Francisco Goya
  • Vashti Harrison
  • Auguste Edouart
  • Lotte Reiniger
  • Jon Key
  • Ronald Jackson
  • Sage Szkabarnicki-Stuart
  • Afsoon
  • Paula Rego
  • Kerry James Marshall
  • Diego Velázquez
  • Kehinde Wiley
  • Amy Sherald
  • Frank Gallo
  • George Catlin
  • Broobs
  • Rich Pellegrino
  • Will Cotton
  • František Kupka
  • Jan Van Eyck
  • Marc Quinn
  • Yūkan Mitsuyasu
  • Leonora Carrington
  • Michelangelo
  • Barry Moser
  • Manuel Filipe
  • Wei Leng Tay
  • Edward Curtis
  • Théodore Géricault
  • Taj Rust
  • Catherine Opie
  • Somaya Critchlow
  • Abdullah Al Saab
  • Victoria Villasana
  • Marly Gallardo
  • Diane Victor
  • Jenny Saville
  • Dadu Shin
  • Ralph Steadman
  • Kadir Nelson
  • Tim O’Brien
  • Alice Neel
  • Höchst Manufactory
  • Roberto Lugo
  • Elizabeth Peyton
  • Brian Britigan
  • Claude Cahun
  • Anh Duong
  • Maia Kobabe
  • Bill Plympton
  • Brooke DiDonato
  • Lorna Simpson
  • Jan Švankmajer
  • Renee Cox
  • Russell Drysdale
  • Cornelis de Vos
  • Zhang Xiaogang
  • Dorothea Lange
  • Alan Lee
  • Houra Yaghoubi
  • Jonathan Viner
  • Maqbool Fida Husain
  • Gabriela Alemán
  • Lalla Essaydi
  • Joiri Minaya
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Artifacts mentioned

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