Portrait painting

89 Discovered artists
Portraits - both paintings and sculptures - are as old as art itself. In a time before photography, they were the only way to capture a person's face. This was important on the one hand to make particularly influential personalities known beyond their own residence, on the other hand to perpetuate a person for posterity. While portraits were still rather idealized in early antiquity, as in ancient Egypt (with the exception of the reign of Akhenaten), they became more and more naturalistic over the centuries.
Not least because of that, portraits could sometimes have serious consequences. For example, Thomas Cromwell, the 1st Earl of Essex, commissioned Henry Holbein the Younger, court painter Henry Holbein the Younger, to paint a benevolent portrait of Anna von Kleve, as Cromwell was determined to arrange a marriage between Henry and Anna. The result was that when Henry confronted Anna, he expressed his displeasure with her appearance and did not hold the marriage for long. The often-quoted remarks that Anna is a "Flemish mare" or looks "like a horse" are indeed unassignable, but the reaction of the English king should come pretty close.

More abstract portraits became modern again in the 19th century. Photography had replaced painting as a means of choice to depict reality, and styles of art such as Impressionism and Expressionism, which pursued a different focus, became fashionable.



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