In visual art, a portrait is traditionally a painting, drawing, or photograph that depicts a person’s face. Before photography was invented in the 1800s, people would usually commission portraits of their friends and family so as to have an image of the person they loved. Important and wealthy individuals—like the monarchs in Europe—might have many portraits painted of them throughout their lifetime. But a middle-class person might only have one or two. And someone in the lower class—perhaps none. So, for a long time, a portrait was associated with status. Today, a photographic portrait is cheap: you can get your best friend to take a professional- looking photo of you with your phone on ‘portrait’ mode. But, because of the time and skill required, the painted portrait still remains rare.
An excellent portrait is not necessarily the one that most accurately or realistically portrays its subject; it is the one that somehow captures the subject’s inner being—that gives the viewer some sense of who that person is, not just what they look like.
In this portfolio of portraits, four different artists are exploring the form in their own unique ways. By using a variety of materials to make up the face in her portrait, Sritanvee Alluri emphasizes how each of us is composed of different pieces of the world: of what we read, hear, watch, and think. In her two portraits, Amalia Ichilov uses soft, visible brushstrokes to create a more realistic—yet somewhat dreamy—representation of her subjects, who appear refreshingly ‘normal’, like someone you could run into on the street. Using Autodesk Sketchbook, a drawing and painting software, Leo Melinsky has turned his attention not to people but to dogs—and succeeds in capturing their personalities: Ernie—standing, mouth closed, looking off the page—appears high-strung and hyper-alert, waiting perhaps for someone to throw his ball, whereas Hazel—drooling, sitting, relaxed— seems easygoing. Finally, Isabella Webb, in painting Queen Elizabeth II, reminds us of the history of portraiture, with an image that captures the Queen’s friendly- but-always-formal attitude.