FOCUS ON PORTRAITURE
Portraits have captured the artistic imagination for centuries. Originally reserved for depicting royalty and aristocrats, with kings and queens, rulers and politicians eulogised within the frame, it has become an amazingly far-reaching, popular style - with artists from Rembrandt to Degas, Warhol to Hockney expanding and experimenting with the medium, picturing loved ones, strangers and themselves.
Bringing together themes of identity, interiority and a sense of inwardness, it’s no surprise that the portrait has remained so integral to contemporary art practice and the way that humans understand the world around them. At our fairs worldwide, portraiture spans many mediums, from photography and paint to print and sculpture. Our roster of Affordable Art Fair artists showcase the range and scope of the genre from highly abstract, process-orientated pieces to poignant, sentimental representations. Read on for a lightning fast tour of portraiture through the ages, plus some of our favourite picks from the online shop!
PORTRAITURE THROUGH THE AGES
Some of the earliest examples of Renaissance and Baroque art, from the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth century celebrated rulers and famous individuals, with artists such as Velazquez in Spain and Van Dyck in England portraying all the associated pomp and ceremony. Moving into the seventeenth century, portraiture erred away from the rich and famous, and instead focused on the everyday, with Vermeer’s strikingly detailed portraits of quotidian life and Rembrandt’s tender self-portraits of old age capturing the depth of the medium.
The late nineteenth and early twentieth-century celebrated all things ordinary, grounded in representing people and the spaces they lived in, such as the Impressionist artists who relished depicting men and women in bustling markets and restaurant scenes, or figures enjoying the French countryside. Following this, more experimental movements such as Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism interpreted portraiture in their multifarious forms. With the swinging sixties, Pop Artists such as Andy Warhol celebrated the face in all its glory - and contemporary artists have kept going ever since, taking inspiration from each movement in turn, reinterpreting them into a veritable smorgasbord of portraiture-perfection that we just can’t wait to delve into further.
ALL ABOUT ABSTRACT
The human form and the abstract medium have a long history, with twentieth-century heavyweights such as Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso leading the charge and creating puzzle-like portrayals, with faces broken apart and then pieced back together. Contemporary artists have followed suit, representing the human form in ways that may at first feel non-representative, causing the viewer to stop and pause. We love Frank Schroeder’s gorgeous ‘Bar Fly’ which blends psychological depth with bold colours and thick lines. Hang as part of a vibrant salon hang for a striking design overhaul of your space.
Similarly, Tim Fowler’s self-portrait nods to the abstract form, with its bright colours and thick brush strokes bearing a strong resemblance to Lucien Freud’s densely painted canvases. Tim trained as an architect, and the heavy lines and sense of structure felt in his work undoubtedly references his previous training (for more on Tim, read our recent blog).
PORTRAITS THAT POP
Here at the Affordable Art Fair, we’re proud to be home to a plethora of bright, vibrant pieces that turn heads and break the mould. And the portrait genre is a fabulous place to look when searching for intriguing, eye-catching pieces that brighten the mood. Marcelina Amelia’s pastel-infused ‘Mother Goddess’ combine softly sketched faces with vivid natural forms and colours, creating an unusual mixed media piece that’s sure to raise a smile and lift the atmosphere of any room.
Incorporating painting and photography, Sophie Derrick’s eye-popping pieces focus on the materiality of paint, and have an amazing process behind them. Sophie photographs the act of painting onto her skin, before painting on top of these photographs and gradually building up layer of photograph, paint and painted image. Sophie’s process allows her body to become a canvas for the paint, questioning the traditional concept of painting and portraiture as she literally imposes her own form into her work. Definitely one to watch.
With its lengthy cultural heritage, portraits that nod to the genre’s rich history have proved firm favourites by contemporary artists, who strive to tell stories and weave narratives into their work. With its dark colours and serious expression, Tanja Hirschfeld’s sitter is reminiscent of old master portraits, whilst keeping a surreal feel through the addition of props, masks and costumes. Combining computer imagery and oil paints, Tanya uses different objects to represent different cultures and uniting the unknown and the familiar in her works.
With traditional portraiture all about capturing likeness, many artists focus on imbuing their subjects with a sense of authenticity and reality. The works of Michal Lukasiewicz’s work, such as ‘Meditate’, shows this in abundance, with his off white gesso and acrylic paintings creating a captivatingly tender portrayal.
For those after a serious injection of traditional realism, why not add some photography to you home? James Sparshatt’s wonderfully striking monochrome photographs chart his travels in Latin America, and with their timeless charm, these would make a fantastic addition to a calm office space or a stylish, monochrome bathroom.
Despite their easy connotations with self-reflection and interiority, portraiture isn’t all about getting thoughtful and serious. Our shop boasts an amazing range of fun, fresh portrayals of familiar faces and well-known personalities - from favourite singers and historical figures to movie stars. We love Michelle Mildenhall’s chic representation of the legendary Audrey Hepburn, with its strong lines punctured with vivid reds. This is a showstopper piece and would be perfect placed on a room with white walls and minimal clutter. Similarly, we can’t get enough of Dan Jamieson’s fabulous depiction of Frida Kahlo bolstering the Mexican artists’s iconic aesthetic with eye-popping colours and striking, graphic shapes.
Feeling inspired? Head over to our online shop get ready to fall in love with our portraiture picks. Don't forget you can filter by medium, price, colour, dimensions and more - happy browsing!
Sophie Derick, Seize - Blue Progress, 2017, digital print, £250 Degree Art
Featured art from first to last:
Charlotte Cory, The War Horse, 2016, limited edition print, £2,100, Fflow Gallery
Frank Shroeder, Bar Fly, 2018, mixed-media, £2200 Urbane Art Gallery
Tim Fowler, Self Portrait, 2018, mixed-media, £4000 StudionAme
Marcelina Amelia, Mother Godess, 2018, archival print, £420 Liberty Gallery
Sophie Derrick, The Space Between - Cerulean V1, 2017, acrylic, £5700 Degree Art
Tanja Hirschfeld, Lei Da Donna Giovane, 2019, oil, £1300 ALL YOU CAN ART
Michal Lukasiewicz, Meditate, 2016, acrylic, £1200 London Contemporary Art
James Sparshatt, El Dandy, 2000, photography, £950 Capital Culture
Michelle Mildenhall, Miss Hepburn, 2016, fabric, £1250 Lilford Gallery
Dan Jamieson, Frida Thinking, 2018, acrylic, £400 BROTHart