Exploring contemporary portraiture

If you take a walk through any European painting section at a museum, you will encounter hundreds of portraits. Some are small enough to hold in your hand, while others are bigger than an entire New York City apartment. Okay, admittedly, that’s not too big, but the amount of paint and skill required to make each painting is substantial. Now, if you happen to wander past the European section and into that of Modern Art (or maybe into an entirely different museum in most cases), you’ll find that the portraiture is just as interesting.

oil painting portrait by yunior hurtado


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Looking at this work, my Hurtado, the phrase, ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’ becomes more clear. He chooses to portray the woman’s life through here eyeglasses; a depiction of her fashion sense, her point of view to the world around her, and to her home.

Joshua Meils Portraitjoshua_miels_16

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Adam Caldwell, oil on canvas {contemporary female head woman partial abstract face e82415b7415be0da6c38438624fba7c2

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Caldwell and Meil’s both use more abstract textures and shapes in their portraits to evoke a condition of the heart and mind of their subjects. You can only imagine the trouble within the individuals psyche through the physicality of smeared paint marring a lovely face, or distorted shapes and colors contouring a cheek.

Lucian Freud – Portrait of David Hockneylucian-freud-portrait-of-david-hockney-1353095547

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Unlike our previous artists, Bartner and Freud both use classical techniques to depict their subjects, showing how nothing is ever too old to be appreciated, including styles. Each depicts the individual in an ungarnished light; one showing the sweet image of a young girl, the pother the tired and honest face of a working man. Neither look like the faces of nobility, but they are interesting nonetheless.

So, the point of this article is not to say that contemporary portraits are better than classical ones. I happen to think that artists have always found a way to channel their wit and insight into any work of art they make, even if it’s commissioned as many portraits were. Yet, as millennial art makers, we have the opportunity to reap the various styles, media, and points of view that have been established previously by masters and eras before us. The product of this is interesting and frenetic works that have taken the purpose and attitude of portraiture into a different arena.