Guiding Question-How do people reveal their identities in a creative way?

Portrait? Self-portrait?

•A portrait is a representation of an artist, drawn, painted, photographed, or sculpted by the artist.
•Although portraits have been made by artists since the earliest times, it is not until the Early Renaissance in the mid 1400s that artists can be frequently identified depicting themselves as either the main subject, or as important characters in their work.
•With better and cheaper mirrors, and the advent of the panel portrait, many painters, sculptors and printmakers tried some form of self-portraiture.
Johannes Gumpp  1646,  shows how most self-portraits were painted

Johannes Gumpp
shows how most self-portraits were painted

Parmigianino  Self-portrait


•The probable example by Jan van Eyck of 1433 is the earliest known panel self-portrait. He painted a separate portrait of his
Portrait of Jan de Leeuw1436Oil on oak

Portrait of Jan de Leeuw1436Oil on oak

wife, and he belonged to the social group that had begun to commission portraits, already more common among wealthy Netherlanders than south of the Alps.

•The genre is venerable, but not until the Renaissance, with increased wealth and interest in the individual as a subject, did it become truly popular.

Types of Self-Portrait

A self-portrait may be a portrait of the artist, or a portrait included in a larger work, including a group portrait. Many painters are said to have included depictions of specific individuals, including themselves, in painting figures in religious or other types of composition not intended to depict the actual persons as themselves. Often these are just faces in a crowd, often at the corner of the work, but a particular hybrid genre 混合世態畫 developed where historical scenes were depicted using a number of actual persons as models, often including the artist, giving the work a double function as portrait and history painting.
Sandro Botticelli's painting of the Adoration of the Magi has an "inserted self-portrait". The position in the (right) corner, and the gaze out to the viewer, are very typical of such self-portraits.

Sandro Botticelli’s painting of the Adoration of the Magi has an “inserted self-portrait”. The position in the (right) corner, and the gaze out to the viewer, are very typical of such self-portraits.

Sometimes artists place their own image into group portraits, such as (probably) Jan van Eyck in the Arnolfini Portrait, who inspired Diego Velázquez in Las Meninas. Later group portraits of family, friends or professional groups became common.
Jan van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

Jan van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

Diego Velázquez  Las Meninas,  La Familia de Felipe IV  1656

Diego Velázquez
Las Meninas,
La Familia de Felipe IV

One of the most famous and most prolific of self-portraitists was Vincent van Gogh, who painted himself thirty-seven times between 1886 and 1889. In all of these self-portraits one is struck that the gaze 凝視 of the painter is seldom directed at us; even when it is a fixed gaze, he seems to look elsewhere. These paintings vary in intensity and color and some portray the artist with bandages; representing the episode in which he severed one of his ears.
VanGogh-self-portrait-dedicated to Gaugin

VanGogh-self-portrait-dedicated to Gaugin 1888-09

VanGogh-self-portrait-with bandaged

VanGogh-self-portrait-with bandaged

Environmental Portraits

An environmental portrait is a portrait executed in the subject’s usual environment, such as in their home or workplace, and typically illuminates the subject’s life and surroundings. The term is most frequently used of a genre of photography.
Surrounding Details
While it is often true that the background may dominate the subject, this need not necessarily be so. In fact, the details that convey the message from the surroundings can often be quite small, and still be significant. The key seems to be in the symbolism expressed by various elements in the background, for instance, a baseball cap may not tell you much about your subject (unless he or she is a baseball player), but a chef’s hat gives you a lot more detail about who he is and what he does
Identity and Image: Pictorial concepts of portraiture
Portraits play an important role in the daily lives of people all over the world. They help people remember loved ones and honor great leaders and heroes. They can give us an idea of what life was like for their subjects.

Have you ever noticed that leaders commonly have their portraits displayed  in the government sector or public areas?

Chairman Mao Zedong
President Dr. Sun Yat Sen
For the Northern American colonists, having their portraits painted was a sign of  success in a growing community.
Usually, the style of these portraits was based on what was popular in Europe at the time.

This artists painted full-figure portraits of children in formal garden scenes. Parents wanted these portraits to show their children’s pleasures. The backgrounds recall the communities that parents had left behind in Europe.

Portraits were also important to the rulers of the ancient Empires. Formal portraits of the ruling class and scenes of daily court life show a blend of Persian, Hindu, and European elements. Most portraits include a garden or landscape scene.
Portraits can say a great deal about the artist and their view of the the subject they are depicting. Below are two images of Emperor Ch’ing Ch’ien-Lung. The impression they give of the same subject matter is in real contrast.
"Portrait of emperor Ch'ing Ch'ien-Lung by William Alexander, who painted a number of watercolours while accompanying Lord MacCartney's mission to China (1793-4)"

“Portrait of emperor Ch’ing Ch’ien-Lung by William Alexander, who painted a number of watercolours while accompanying Lord MacCartney’s mission to China (1793-4)”

Notice the composition of these portraits





Portrait artists observe the way people sit, stand, and move. They notice the position and placement of their subjects’ arms and legs, hands and heads. They study facial expressions and characteristics that are unique to the people they portray. When artists create portraits, they pay special attention to their subjects’ proportions, or the relation between one part of the body and another. People are surprisingly alike in their proportions. A good portrait capture’s a person’s general proportions and individuality.
What about these two portraits?
Do you think they are good enough to show Obama’s personality to the audience?
Why or why not?



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