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An Introduction to Portrait Painters


Portrait Artists


  • Portraits have existed in one form or another since the earliest civilizations. The ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans all have literary evidence of portraiture but few examples have survived.
  • The earliest examples of individual portraits in art come from Ancient Rome and are mostly painted with tempera or encaustic on a wooden panel.
  • Artists create portraits of individuals and groups to express the beauty, status, power, wealth or character of their subjects.
  • Artists use a wide range of media for portraiture, including drawing, printing, painting, sculpture, photography and multimedia.
  • Some artists may wish display their artistic skill in capturing an exact likeness of their subject by using a very realistic painting technique.
  • Some artists may wish to express their subjects inner personality by simplifying or emphasizing the shapes, colours, tones or textures of the portrait for dramatic effect.
  • Some artists may reduce their subject to abstract elements where the style or expressive power of the image is more important than a physical resemblance to the sitter.
  • The Self Portrait, which first became popular during the Renaissance, is an intimate and revealing form of the genre.
  • Albrecht Dürer was the first important artist to produce a range of self portraits that document both his physical and artistic development.
  • Rembrandt and Vincent Van Gogh are the most prolific painters of self portraits, both producing around forty works that chart their life as an artist.

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'Self Portrait' (1659) by Rembrandt van Rijn.

'Self Portrait' (1659) by Rembrandt van Rijn.