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Art Guide & Reference – Portrait painting

Portrait paintings are very self explanatory. Basically, as the name implies, a portrait encompasses any art form where the face and the expression of the face is the main subject matter. Perhaps the most popular and celebrated portrait painting would be the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci which would need no introduction. Basically it is a still life painting of a person although there are artists who have used sculptures, photographs and any other means of artistic representation of the person in their works.

The fundamental idea behind portraits is to show the personality and the current mood of the person when the artwork was produced and this could be further enhanced and strengthened by the clothes that they were wearing at that specific time and it often involves the person staring directly at the artist when the artwork was produced.

The most common people who like to have their portraits painted and enshrined in artworks were members of royal families although there has also been history of portraits of prominent people and corporate leaders who have their portraits painted. In fact, the earliest portraits were that of funeral portraits and has a long historical trait. Portrait art became more prominent during the Ancient Greek and Roman eras and continued to grow to other parts of the world.

The more common views of portraits include the profile, full face and three-quarter views respectively. A self-portrait is a common portrait of the artist themselves while family portraits are also commonly painted, especially among prominent families. A very prominent and large portrait of Mao Zedong is seen hanging in front of Tiananmen Square and this is a common practice in the area of politics where they are used to symbolize the head of the state.

At the Umno building, the presidents of the party throughout history are seen at the halls inside. The president of Umno is usually the head of the BN (Barisan Nasional) coalition. Apart from politics, portraits were also used in various other disciplines and they usually adopt the real image of the person while these type of artworks are commonly regarded to be more serious.

The thing about portraits is that you get a snapshot of the person and it depends largely on the artist’s skills and techniques. If the artist is good, the emotion and expression of the particular moment would be effectively captured and this could have a different effect if the artist is not as skilful. In modern times, portrait art has evolved into other art forms. This includes artists who have used other medium like sculptures and photographs while the likes of caricature art have also been regarded as a form of portrait art. Where this is concerned, caricature is more graffiti based where the artist would usually apply a different approach to the artwork. The subject matter would be less serious and a little more comical and it is often considered to be a novelty for those who are having their portraits painted.