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Portraits through the Ages


In the
Tshwane University of Technology

Mr Alberts


Table of Contents
List of Figures pg, 3-4
1. Egyptian pg, 5-6
2. Greek pg, 6-9
3. Roman pg, 9-12
4. Early Christian and Byzantine pg, 13-15
5. Medieval
5.1. Romanesque pg, 15-17
5.2. Gothic pg, 17-18
6. Renaissance and Mannerism pg, 19-21
7. Baroque pg, 22-24
8. Rococo pg, 24-27
9. 19
9.1. Neo Classicism pg, 27-30
9.2. Romanticism pg, 30-33
9.3. Realism pg, 33-34
10. 20
10.1. Impressionism pg, 35-56
10.2. Post Impressionism pg, 37-38
10.3. Fauvism pg, 38-40
10.4. Expressionism pg, 40-41
10.5. Surrealism pg, 42-43
10.6. Abstract Expressionism pg, 44-45
10.7. Pop Art pg, 45-47

Reference List pg, 47-51


List of Figures
Figure 1.1 Portrait of Neferati
Figure 1.2 Namers Pallete.
Figure 2.1 Ancient Greek Kouros from the Early Classical Period
Figure 2.2 Kritios Boy of the High Classical Greek Art
Figure 2.3 Carian Prince, Mausolus, from the Ancient Greek Late Classical Period
Figure 3.1 Ancient Roman Mummy Portraits from Egypt
Figure 3.2 Statue of Augustus.
Figure 3.3 Ancient Roman Portrait, 50 BC.
Figure 3.4 Ancient Roman Bust.
Figure 4.1 Early Christian Mosaics of the Fish and Loaves Miracle
Figure 4.2 Christs Crucifixion Portrait from Early Christian Art
Figure 4.3 Christ of Nazareth, Byzantine Portrait.
Figure 5.1.1 Romanesque Portrait of Christ
Figure 5.1.2 Romanesque Sculptures
Figure 5.2.1 Barbara De Vlaenderberch, circa 1472-75
Figure 5.2.2 The Madonna and Child with the Crucifixion, the Annunciation, the Presentation in
the Temple, and the Coronation of the Virgin
Figure 6.1 Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci
Figure 6.2 The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo
Figure 6.3 The Creation of Eve, by Michelangelo
Figure 7.1 Rembrandts The Anatomy lecture of Dr Nicolaes
Figure 7.2 Guido Renis Ecci Homo 1
Figure 7.3 The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni By Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Figure 8.1 Toilette of Venus by Boucher.

Figure 8.2 The Breakfast/ Le Dejeuner, by Boucher
Figure 8.3 The Swing, by Fragonard.
Figure 9.1.1 Cupid and Psyche, by Canova in 1787-93.
Figure 9.1.2 The Death of Marat, by JL David
Figure 9.3.1 Liberty Leading the People, by Delacroix, 1830.
Figure 9.3.2 La Folle (The Mad Woman), Gericault, 1822.
Figure 9.3.1 Burial at Ornans, by Courbet, 1851.
Figure 9.3.2 Angelus, by Millet
Figure 10.1.1 The Absinth Drinker, By Edgar Degas, 1876
Figure 10.1.2 A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, by Edouard Manet, 1882
Figure 10.2.1 Self Portrait with Straw Hat, By Van Gogh, 1887
Figure 10.2.2 The Large Bathers, By Cezanne.
Figure 10.3.1 Bonheur de Vivre (Joy of Life) By Matisse, 1905
Figure 10.3.2 Green Stripe (Madam Matisse) by Matisse, 1905
Figure 10.4.1 The scream, By Edward Munch.
Figure 10.5.1 Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before
Awakening, by Salvador Dali
Figure 10.5.2 Son of Man, by Rene Magritte.


1. Egyptian (3100 BC- 539 BC)
The focus and intention of Ancient Egyptian Art was primarily on the afterlife. With the belief of
an afterlife playing a large role in the lives of the Egyptians, the dead were buried with
possessions, and sometimes even with their slaves, in highly decorated tombs and pyramids, in
belief that these would aid in the assistance of the dead into his afterlife, where he would take
along with him all the things buried.
The art which decorated the walls of the tombs aimed to immortalise the dead, his portraits and
accomplishments would forever reign (Reshfim: Ancient Egyptian Portraiture, 2002: online).
The style of the painting was a flat figure with no indication of depth, the figures body would be
in a frontal position with the head in a profile view, according to Boundless: Ancient Egyptian
Art (n.d: online) this style is known as Composite View. This way of depicting the figures results
in flat, 2 dimensional paintings, as seen in figure 1.1 below. In ancient Egypt the pigments used
for painting both sculptures and wall portraits were made of natural minerals- primarily in red,
blue, black, gold and green (Boundless: Ancient Egyptian Art, n.d: online).

Figure 1.1 Portrait of Neferati [online image] Available from:
history/ancient-egyptian-art/early-dynastic-period/painting-and-sculpture/ [accessed 12 July


Variations in size of the figures are evident, however rather than being an indication of a
primitive form of perspective, this functions more as a means of depicting status (Reshfim:
Ancient Egyptian Portraiture, 2002: online). The slaves are depicted as smaller figures, whereas
the more important individuals are larger, for example in figure 1.2 below, a depiction of a
ceremonial palette of Pharaoh Namar (History Lists, 2012: online), the larger figure is dressed as
a figure of importance and becomes the focus point of the piece, whereas the smaller figure,
presumably a slave, holds less focus and significance.

Figure 1.2 Namers Pallete. [Online image] Available from:
distinguished-works-of-ancient-egyptian-art.html [accessed 12 July 2014]

2. Greek (850 BC- 31 BC)
The Greek form of portraiture became more focussed on the sculptured art rather than the
painted portraits. These sculptures provided a three dimensional portrait and developed
drastically over the three Greek periods; Early-, High-, and Late Classical. During the Early
Classical period the portraiture remained stiff and focussed predominantly on a frontal position,
much like the Egyptians (Lumpkin, 2002: online). The positions of the bodies were upright and
rigid, with little expression and a fairly generic approach. These portraiture sculptures were

known as Kouros (Lumpkin, 2002: online), as seen in figure 2.1 below, the proportions are not
exact; the figure is forward focussed and rigid, as well as sculpted in an idealistic manner.

Figure 2.1 Ancient Greek Kouros from the Early Classical Period. [Online image] Available
from: [Accessed 13 July 2014]
According to Lumpkin (2002: online) during the High Classical period of the Greeks. The art of
sculptured portraiture developed away from the stiff Kouros style into a more relaxed and
naturalistic position know as Contrapposto. This refers to the position of the body into a shifted
weight to give the feeling of movement to the statue in order to make it more lifelike. In figure
2.2 below, The Kritios Boy, one can observe the progression away from the previous style. One
of the legs is moved forward and the weight of the body is leaning back, shifting the hips and
shoulders into a more natural position, furthermore the head is turned slightly differing from the
stiff frontal position used in the Kouros (Lumpkin, 2002: online).

Figure 2.2 Kritios Boy of the High Classical Greek Art. [Online image] Available from: [accessed 13 July 2014]
Finally, in the Late Classical period, the artists of ancient Greek had perfected their art and
developed it to create a beautiful form of portraiture which conveyed movement and personality,
bringing the sculptures to life. According to Lumpkin (2002: online) the philosophical
developments of the time influenced the development of the art, Philosophers ventured into the
idea of the soul and this in turn lead to artists attempting to portray the soul and personality of
the person in their work rather than simply a generic body, thus introducing more realism into
the portraits. Although the Greek artists were working more realistically in attempting to create
authentic representations, the idealism in this period remains iconic to the period. The Greek
gods played an important role in the lives of the people and were seen as perfection of man, as
well as the highly regarded athletes, hence a large proportion of the portraits tried to depict the
perfection of the body, and the idealised physical appearance (Lumpkin, 2002: online). The most
widely recognised Greek works are from this period, and are characterised by an idealistic

realism, with a movement towards embodied movement and emotion. In figure 2.3 below, the
figure on the right emanates movement through the weight distribution of his legs, which causes
the hips and shoulders to be more relaxed and realistically positioned. Furthermore, the drapery
creates and additional lifelikeness to the figure, as well as the position of the head and the hair.
However in this figure the idealism portrayed show a more generic Greek-type face than that of
the Roman sculptures which focussed on realism.

Figure 2.3 Carian Prince, Mausolus, from the Ancient Greek Late Classical Period. [Online
image] Available from:
mauseleum-statu.gif [2014]

3. Roman (500 BC- 476 AD)
The Roman Empire spread, taking along with it various influences from the lands and
civilisations it conquered, one such example is the Greeks. The ancient Romans took the art
developments made by the Greeks and continued to build onto these toward a more realistic

portraiture execution. In light of painted Roman Mummy portraits, the remaining murals
available to us are from the Roman governed Egypt where portraits accompanied the deceased
(Fletcher, 2013: online). Note in figure 3.1 the realism of the painting style, the face of the child
is proportioned and painted with much more insight and knowledge than previously seen in
Egypt prior to Roman rule. The preservation of this art is accredited to the wax based pigment
binder used known as Encaustic (Fletcher, 2013: online).

Figure 3.1 Ancient Roman Mummy Portraits from Egypt. [Online] Available from: [accessed 17 July 2014]
As with the Greeks, there is more evidence and availability of sculptured portraiture, than
painted. The Romans continued to build onto the strides the Greeks had made is the arts of
sculptured portraits, and busts became extremely popular for the wealthy in order to
commemorate their dead. Not only did the Realism without the Greek idealism, the artists would
provide in their portraits a piece of the individuals personality too, the result being a highly
individualised and recognisable tribute to the person (Jokjak, 2010: online). Furthermore, the
portraiture of emperors and highly esteemed political figures served as a form of propaganda,

elevating their status and power through large statues, often one hand raised, and in a stance of
superiority and authority, such as in figure 3.2 below.

Figure 3.2 Statue of Augustus. [Online image] Available from: [accessed 17 July
In figure 3.3 and 3.4 below, an example is made of the immense detail, personality and emotion
that was common in Roman sculptured portraiture. In contrast to the Greeks, where
individualism was not paramount, here the concept of idealising the individual was not as
attractive, however not unheard of in commemorative portraiture of the deceased (Jokjak,
2010: online). According to Met Museum (2006: online) the severity and raw realism in these
portrait busts of older men is linked to the Roman glorification of prowess and success in the
battle field. The battle scars, intensity and hardness of the portraits illuminate the virtue of
masculinity. During this time the gladiator games were extremely popular and demonstrated the
combat abilities of the gladiators, who were worshipped as if gods, hence the portrait busts
sought to glorify their masculinity and battle frilled scars.

Figure 3.3 Ancient Roman Portrait, 50 BC. [Online image] Available from:
[accessed 17 July 2014]

Figure 3.4 Ancient Roman Bust. [Online image] Available from: [accessed 17 July 2014]

4. Early Christian and Byzantine (200 AD- 1453 AD)
Early Christian art, according to Fletcher (2013: online) occurs alongside the Roman Empire and
art development. This happens as a result of the early Christians being heavily prosecuted by the
Romans and hence forced into hiding to worship, gather and practice their faith. The Christians
of the time preferred to buy their dead, rather than cremation, and hence build underground
Catacombs with tunnels and tombs for burial, as well as a secretive meeting place outside of the
city walls (Fletcher 2013: online).
As a result of Christianity being illegal and the Christians meeting secretively, many Early
Christian portraits are found in the catacombs along with simple sculptures serving as sculpted
tombs. The style of the portraits became more simplified, moving away from three dimensional
figures and realism, toward a more symbolic, but flat form (Fletcher, 2013: online). Figure 4.1
and 4.2 below is an example of the style of portraiture of the early Christians, the content is
strongly biblical and served to be reminders of the Christian faith in catacombs where they met
and worshipped. Note the reversion to flat, simplified images, and the symbolic halo around
Christs head to indicate his divinity. The content, as in this figure, would make reference to
biblical stories, as well as saints, and biblical figures. These pieces came in the forms of mosaics
popular at the time, as well as paintings.


Figure 4.1 Early Christian Mosaics of the Fish and Loaves Miracle. [Online] Available from:
d_fishes_saint_apollinare_nuovo.jpg [accessed 17 July 2014]

Figure 4.2 Christs Crucifixion Portrait from Early Christian Art. [Online] Available from: [accessed 17 July 2014]

When the ban on Christianity was lifted by Constantine, the theme of Christian and biblical art
became more wide spread and acknowledged. Byzantine portrait remained focussed biblical
figures as Christianity spread, an iconic part of Byzantine portraiture is its symbolism and love
for mosaics. According to Farber (n.d: online) the portraiture style consisted of figures in a much
more stiff position than previously depicted in Greek and Roman art, predominantly facing
forward and accompanied by symbolic icons to identify the figures. The style became less
realistic and the idealism of early Greek art became more prominent- the purpose being not on
the beauty of the work created but rather the beauty and significance of the figure represented.

Figure 4.3 Christ of Nazareth, Byzantine Portrait. [Online image] Available from:
[accessed 17 July 2014]

5. Medieval
5.1 Romanesque (900 AD- 1200 AD)
Moving from the Byzantine style of Christian themed art, the Romanesque period used similar
means to educate and inform the illiterate of biblical figures and stories, often painted in large

murals and frescoes on the interiors of buildings (Elena, 2013: online). The style of the
portraits remained flat and forward facing, with elongated stiff figures. The figures showed no
three dimensionality and the faces little expression and emotion. Ainaud and Held (1963: online)
describe the Romanesque portrait figures as linear designs (being) predominate, producing
majestic calmness or, alternatively, agitated expressiveness. In figure 5.1.1 below, the elongated
or linear features are prominent when compared to the Byzantine figure of Christ in figure 4.3.
Figure 5.1.2 shows the sculptured portraiture of biblical figures and teachers, which too
maintained the elongated and solemn figures typical of the period.

Figure 5.1.1 Romanesque Portrait of Christ. [Online image] Available from: [accessed 18 July 2014]

Figure 5.1.2 Romanesque Sculptures. [Online image] Available from:
0.png [accessed 18 July 2014]
5.2 Gothic (1200 AD 1450 AD)
As with Romanesque art, the portraiture of Gothic artists remained centralised on Christian
figures and scenes, however started to move towards a more enlightened form of art as a result of
Artists gaining popularity and status for their craft (Mulch, n.d: online). The portraits often
alluded to mystery and wonderment, telling stories and conveying intense emotion to enlighten
the illiterate and evoke devout religious following. However, portraits and art pieces started to
diverge from religious content in this period, such as portraits of the more wealthy and
prestigious were created. Compared to the Romanesque style, the Gothic era of portraiture
depicted a more realistic posture and positioning of the figure, as well as conveying emotion
through the paintings.

Figure 5.2.1 Barbara De Vlaenderberch, circa 1472-75 [online image] Available From:
memling-barbara-de-vlaenderberch-circa-1472-75.jpg [accessed 24 August 2014]

Figure 5.2.2 The Madonna and Child with the Crucifixion, the Annunciation, the Presentation in
the Temple, and the Coronation of the Virgin [online image] Available from: [accessed 24
August 2014]

6. Renaissance and Mannerism (1480 AD- 1600 AD)

After the discovery of ancient Roman and Greek relics and artefacts, the Italian culture and
influence changed drastically, reforming to styles of the Ancients art, architecture and
literature. The culture moved away from the strictly religious focussed living and domination
of the church as it was in the medieval ages, and leant more towards education, ethics,
philosophy and artistic expression. According to McKay & McKay (2014: online) social,
economic and political structures went under large reform which enabled artists to not only
be commissioned by the church with its restrictive rules and regulations, but now also by the
wealthy and noble who contracted artists beyond simply religious works.

McKay & McKay (2014: online) describe characteristic, revolutionary features of
Renaissance art that set it apart from all works previously produced, many of which are
developments on techniques and practices from ancient Rome and Greece. Firstly,
Renaissance paintings make use of perspective and vanishing points creating a more natural
portrait than the flat backgrounds of the medieval portraits as seen in figure 5.2.1.
Furthermore linear perspective was introduced, that is, the concept of objects decreasing in
size as they get further away (McKay & MacKay, 2014: online). During this time, the artists
started experimenting with the depiction of light and shadows to create a more natural and
realistic feel, attention was paid to the source of the light and how this light reflected and
interacted with the objects in the portrait. Finally, Renaissance portraiture is renowned for its
depicting of emotion and its ability to evoke emotion (McKay & MacKay, 2014: online). In
figure 6.1 below, Da Vincis Mona Lisa, the typical style of the Renaissance is evident- the
background creates a natural setting with perspective created by the river flowing into the
vanishing point and the linear perspective causing objecting to grow smaller. Although the
figure still appears in a rigid and posed position, the body and face are relaxed, and most
importantly naturally depicted as a result of intense anatomical study done by Da Vinci.


Figure 6.1 Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci [accessed 25 August

Figure 6.2 The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo [online image] Available from: [accessed
29 September 2014]

During the late period of the Renaissance, Mannerism made its appearance in the paintings
and portraiture. The term Mannerism refers to the style of art that deviated from the typical
Renaissance style, the figures in Mannerist style portraits are often distorted and the paintings
seem unbalanced compared to Early and High Renaissance portraits, terms such as instability
and emotional and physical tension are often used to describe Mannerism (Finocchio, 2000:
online). Compared to figure 6.1, figure 6.2 and 6.3- Michelangelos Creation of Adam and
Creation of Eve, depicts the figures in a far less rigid position and with an emotional intensity
that creates an artistic tension in the portrait between the figures.

Figure 6.3 The Creation of Eve, by Michelangelo. [Online image] Available from:
nofeve.jpg [accessed 24 August 2014]


7. 17
Century: Baroque

The rise of the popularity of portrait art started in the Baroque period when the Catholic
church started funding and promoting artists to create works in order to heighten the churches
influences, as well as the introduction of the use of canvasses onto which the artists could
work rather than mainly immovable interiors (Visual Arts Cork: Baroque Portraits, n.d:
Online). The Renaissance period preceding the Baroque art was a great influence on the style
and development of the art in this period, such developments included the incorporation of
more emotion and expression on the faces of the portraits as a result of further study into
drawing and sketching emotion before painting. According to Visual Arts Cork: Baroque
Portraits, (n.d: Online) the art in the Baroque period was classified into various groupings, of
which portrait art was the second most popular form in which artists invested and were
commissioned for in order to earn a living. The typical Baroque paintings include dramatic
use of colour and expression, historical incorporation in the backgrounds of the portraits, as
well as starkly contrasted shadow and light (McKay & McKay, 2014; online).

Figure 7.1 Rembrandts The Anatomy Lecture of Dr Nicolaes. [Online image] Available
[accessed 15 September 2014]

In figure 7.1 above of The Anatomy Lecture of Dr Nicolaes, by Rembrandt, we see the clear
difference in depiction of human facial expression and emotion form the Renaissance period
portraiture. Each person depicted has his own emotional reaction and expression to what is
taking place in the picture. Furthermore, the use of dramatic lighting contrast to focus the
viewers attention on the body and faces of the men is typically Baroque; there is a strong
contrast of dark shadows and well lit, clear faces to heighten the expressions of the men in
the painting.

Figure 7.2 Guido Renis Ecci Homo 1. [Online image] Available from: [accessed 15
September 2014]


In image 7.2 is an example of the continued Christian subject matter commissioned by the Catholic
Church maintaining the Baroque style of dramatic lighting, contrast, colour and expression.
Compared to previous depiction of Christ, Renis work shows a more realistic and deeply emotional
and raw version which was typical of the time and style.

Figure 7.3 The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni By Gian Lorenzo Bernini. [Online image] Available from:
[accessed 15 September 2014]

Figure 7.3 depicts a typical Baroque sculpted portraiture of a funerary monument created by Bernini
and located in a church in Rome. This sculpture too accurately portrays the typical dramatic baroque
style, and the incorporation of emotion and realism into the works. The Baroque period is often
classified for its extreme detail, and that feature is not lost in its art as well- in this sculpture one can
appreciate the extreme concentration of detail in the robes of the woman, as well as the intricacies of
the bed on which she lies. Most importantly conveyed is her emotion expressed through her body
positioning which is wrought with emotion rather than stiffly positioned as well as her facial

8. 18
Century: Rococo

The transformation from the Baroque to the Rococo period came with the new reign of King
Louis XV, whose influence and style changes drastically the form of art architecture and

fashion styles. According to (2008, online) the Rococo period of art was dominated
by a much more light and playful nature that Baroque art and incorporated a finer attention to
detail and positivity than the harsh intensity of the preceding period. Furthermore, the
aristocracy commissioned mush more portrait art, and aimed to created reproductions of their
lifestyle into portraits, using light and feminine colours and settings, which took influence
from mythology and became more whimsical than the deep emotions conveyed in Baroque
art (, 2008: online).

Figure 8.1 Toilette of Venus by Boucher. [Online image] Available from:
September 2014]

In the painting above by Boucher, the themes of Mythology clear, with the depiction of the
Mythological figure Venus, surrounded by a common figure in Rococo portraits- Cherubs.
This shows divergence of art in the Rococo period form Christian themed work and a newer
exploration into light hearted portraiture and mythical beliefs. Another element of rococo art

is the use of light, pastel colours, and the lessened use of shadows and stark contrasts.
Another work of Bouchers, The Breakfast in figure 7.2 below, indicates the movement
towards painting scenes of the daily loves of the higher class people of the time. Note the
incredibly intricate detail of the Rococo art, such as the interiors, architecture and fashion of
the time. In The Breakfast, the family is framed by the dining room interior with details such
as the wallpaper, mirror frame and rococo style clock painstakingly included to the finest

Figure 8.2 The Breakfast/ Le Dejeuner, by Boucher. [Online image] available from: [Accessed 15
September 2014]

Finally, Rococo art moved into a far more playful genre of portraiture and many of the
famous portraits, such as Fragonards The Swing in figure 8.3 below. The portraits were of
more females and set in homes or gardens in a relaxed manner, as opposed to the stiff,
serious and harsh portraits of the Baroque era.


Figure 8.3 The Swing, by Fragonard. [Online image] Available from:
Fragonard_-_swing.jpg [accessed 15 September 2014]

9. 19
9.1. Neoclassicism
The Neoclassical movement started as a reaction to the overly detailed and frivolity of Rococo
art during the late 18
century and into the early 19
century, and aimed to revert art and
portraiture back to classical styles, themes and conventions (All Art: Neoclassicism and
Romanticism, n.d: online). In the same article, the author attributes the change in focus in art to
the archaeological discoveries of ancient Greco-Roman art and architecture in the excavations of
Herculaneum and Pompeii. Ancient ruins and buried cities held large amounts of previously
unknown information about the ancient worlds, which became of heightened popularity and
influence on both architects and artists of the time who then tried to recreate and return to those
styles. Not only was the idealist style of the Greek and Roman art replicated in neoclassical art,
but the themes of mysticism and simplicity of ideals were also reflected. Neoclassicism was a

popular movement during the early years of the French Revolution, and hence the themes of
heroic idolisation and value of the Roman and Greek art were pertinent to the social setting of
the late 18
century and early 19
... Painters adopted stirring moral subject matter from Roman history and celebrated the values of
simplicity, austerity, heroism, and stoic virtue that were traditionally associated with the Roman Republic,
thus drawing parallels between that time and the contemporary struggle for liberty in France. (All Art:
Neoclassicism and Romanticism, n.d: online).
One example of a famous artist of the neoclassical era is Antonio Canova, who sculpted a
portrait of Cupid and Psyche, as seen in figure 9.1.1 below. Typically Neoclassical in content
and style, the sculpture portrays the ancient Greek mythological story of the Cupid and Psyche. It
is said that there was one a beautiful daughter of a King who was so beautiful that the people
started worshipping her instead of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Venus became jealous
and sent her son, Cupid to make the girl fall in love with a monster, but instead he was so
captivated by her beauty that he fell in love with her and married her (Bingly, 2014: online). This
sculpture typically speaks of the reversion to classical influences, retelling stories, myths and
ideologies, as well as the stylistic idealism perfected by the Greeks and Romans. As a result
more sculptures stared to make an appearance as well as classically influenced paintings.

Figure 9.1.1 Cupid and Psyche, by Canova in 1787-93. [Online image] Available from:
79332681364257402793.jpg [accessed 29 September 2014]

Jean-Louis David is another famous neoclassical artist. One of his more famous portraits, shown
in figure 9.1.2 below, The Death of Marat, depicts another common neoclassical theme of
historical events in classical styles. This painting depicts a close friend of David who was
murdered during political unrest of the time, known as the Reign of terror under King Louis XIV
and Marie Antoinette (Khan-Academy, 2009: online). The composition of the portrait takes a
more classical style of idealism and includes heavy symbolism.

Figure 9.1.2 The Death of Marat, by JL David [online image] Available from; http://img2.rnkr- [accessed 29
September 2014]
9.2. Romanticism
According to Brion (1960: p65), Romanticism is the first art history period to emerge
that was not specified by its historical period or location- such as with Rococo or
Ancient Greek art, but rather a movement in art shaped by its ideals and manner in
which it interpreted and represented the world. The term Romanticism is not used in the
context of romantic gestures, but rather as a term describing the glorification and
inaccessible idealism of concepts and intangible emotion around the artist, such as
liberty, survival, ideals, hope, awe, heroism, despair, and the various sensations that nature
evokes in humans (Esaak, 2014: online). As a result of this, the movement becomes
complex in its nature to pin down an exact set of rule and standards for the art works,
because of the works expressing something felt and experienced rather than a tangible
object being painted as a replication of reality. The socio-economic and cultural context
into which Romanticism appeared was of heightened study and following of science,

philosophy, the politics of the peoples discontentment with the aristocracy, and the
boom of industry and factories. As a result, the Romantic Movement was nestled in a
reactionist context, standing against the disillusionment of society at the time (Esaak,
2014: online).

A famous example of the Romantic period that expresses the core of the art movement is
Delacroixs Liberty Leading the People (1830) shown in figure 9.3.1 below. The
glorification of the revolutionary movement of the French is clearly depicted in what
Brion (1960, p178) describes as the realistic and symbolic representation of this
historical moment. The gory reality of the revolution stays true to the depiction of raw
emotion of Romanticism where as the personified Liberty leads the men through the
battle triumphantly. Note her appearance is not a neat, well put together symbol of
freedom, but instead one that speaks of the hardships and costs of the revolutionary war.

Figure 9.3.1 Liberty Leading the People, by Delacroix, 1830. [Online image] Available
artwork.jpg [accessed 17 September 2014]

Esaak (2014: online) explains 4 main characteristics of romanticism as follows; firstly,
the focus of the art works always had strong emotionally driven undertones. Scenes
depicted aimed to express a mood and atmosphere, a deeper emotional reaction to the
situations around the figure, portraits faces, posture, eyes and smiles were all linked into
a deeper emotional message that the artist was trying to convey. This point can be
observed in the famous portrait done by Gericault, La Folle (The Mad Woman) in 1822,
shown in figure 9.3.2 below. The brush technique and the colours aid in creating the
overall macabre mood of the portrait, however there is much more focus and attention to
detail and accuracy on the womans face and therefore her expression than the rest of the
painting which almost appears to be out of focus and deemed irrelevant by the painter.

Figure 9.3.2 La Folle (The Mad Woman) by Gericault, 1822. [Online image] Available
from: [accessed 17
September 2014]

Secondly, according to Esaak (2014: online), a commonly found theme in Romantic art
was the destructive nature of the elements. Not as commonly frequented in portraits, but

a very popular conveyance of the tragedy of existence (Brion, 1960: 65). There was a
strong influence of the undertones of death and tragedy, again portraying the
inaccessible ideal life. A third common identifying feature in Romanic Art is the
relevance to current affairs, such as seen in figure 9.3.1, Liberty Leading the People.
Finally Esaak (2014: online) discusses the inconstancy of the Romantic art styles,
although all are full of emotion, not all pieces express the macabre, such as Gericault and
Goya, others expressed more positive emotions and styles. The artists in this movement
felt compelled to express themselves in an intense and glorified manner, regardless of
the emotion, some leant more to the harsh, cruel world, and others towards a more
enlightening range of emotions.

9.3. Realism
Moving away from the emotionally expressive Romantic art, the Realist movement in the mid
century aimed to provide a more natural depiction of the world rather than a symbolic and
somewhat idealistic world. This movement came after the French Revolution where the people
were fighting aristocracy for democracy, and artists started showing interest in creating works
that showed the lives of the modern working class in naturalistic settings (Ross, 2004: online).
Portrait art emerging from this period in France were largely of rural settings in which the
subjects were portrayed in great detail and as naturally as possible to reflect the ideals of the art
movement. Ross (2004: online) explains the highly political nature of the Realist artists
paintings, this is as a result of the political change of the time as well as the fast pace of
industrialisation taking place and hence the economic and social situation of the mid 19

century. A forerunner in the Realist movement was Courbet; figure 9.3.1 shows his famous
portrait A Burial at Ornans, which provides an as-close-to-life-as-possible depiction of the lives
of the modern working class in a common setting of a funeral of a loved one. Ross (2004, online)
speaks of Realism focussing on recreating exact settings, which is clearly evident in this
painting- the figures are not ideally positioned for the best conveyance of mourning but rather
positioned as they were. Millet was another great in Realist art and some of his work, such as
figure 9.3.2 below, Angelus from 1857-9, focus mainly on the poor, peasants and depict the
natural settings and lives of the subjects without the influence of idealised Romanticism
(Castinet.castilleja. n.d.: online).

Figure 9.3.1 Burial at Ornans, by Courbet, 1851. [Online image] Available from:
18481307295592248.png [accessed 25 September 2014]

Figure 9.3.2 Angelus, by Millet. [Online image] Available from: [accessed 25
September 2014]

10. 20
10.1. Impressionism

The impressionism movement began in the late 19
century and continued throughout the 20

century, and can still be seen today in artistic styles of the 21
century. Gersh-Nesic (2014:
online) describes the artists movement of impressionism as aiming to capture moments of
modern day living,
Impressionism is about modernity: its faster pace and various improvements in the quality of
daily life. It is about middle class activities... The artists who seemed to quickly jot down these
instances of modern life were playfully dubbed Impressionists... (Gersh-Nesic, 2014: online)
The style of the Impressionist artists gained much criticism for lacking clarity and skill by major
artists and art critics of the time, however as the style continued to grow, Impressionist artists
grouped together and decided to exhibit their collective works. This exhibition of a radically
different art style quickly became popular due to its vastly different style and content to what
was available t audiences at the time (Gersh-Nesic, 2014: online). The preceding movement of
neoclassicism sought to look into historical subject matter, whereas the impressionists sought to
create captured moments of beauty in the natural surroundings in a non-idealised manner (Dillen,
2014: online).
Characteristics of the Impressionism art movement and style are thick and visible brush strokes,
very little blending and colour mixing, and layered paint, furthermore the artists focus is centred
on the overall picture and detailed painting is lost (Dillen, 2014: online). Gersh-Nesic (2014:
online) characterises Impressionism with a key focus on light and reflection, and the idea of
colour mixing in the perceivers eye rather than directly on the canvas. Figure 10.1.1 and 10.1.2
below are clear examples of Impressionist art.


Figure 10.1.1 The Absinth Drinker, By Edgar Degas, 1876. [Online image] Available from:
Degas-734x1024.jpg [accessed 15 October 2014]

Figure 10.1.2 A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, by Edouard Manet, 1882. [Online image] Available
aux-Folies-Bergere-by-Edouard-Manet-1024x763.jpg [Accessed 15 October 2014]

10.2. Post Impressionism

According to Voorhies (2004: online) and The Art Story: Post-Impressionism (2014:
online), the post impressionism movement moved away from Impressionist style of
depicting the observable moments in time, and moved towards capturing stylised and
abstract emotions, memories and dreams. Colour and shapes became a primary style in
which the artists focussed in order to relay the themes and emotion behind the paintings.
Similarly to the Impressionists, the Post-Impressionists applied dabs of colour next to
each other and allowed the viewers eyes to mix them (The Art Story: Post-
Impressionism, 2014: online).

Probably the most famous and well know Post Impressionist artist is Vincent Van Gogh,
figure 10.2.1 below is a famous self portrait which accurately captures the colour and
style conventions of Post Impressionism- the thick, quick brush strokes, and lack of
colour mixing and blending is typical of the movement, as well as the intention of
conveying emotion through the portrait rather than simply the observable moment.

Figure 10.2.1 Self Portrait with Straw Hat, By Van Gogh, 1887. [Online image] Available
from: [accessed 14 October

Figure 10.2.2 below, The Large Bathers by Cezanne, is a different composition of Post
Impressionism, where Van Gogh used sharp lines, shapes and brush strokes, Cezanne favour
using a pallet knife in place of a brash and softer lines and shapes, however maintaining little
blending and typical Post Impressionist techniques. Rather than simply capturing a moment of
the bathers, as with Impressionist themes, Cezanne composes the portrait stylistically, conveying
the abstract rather than the literal in his use of colours, positioning of the figures and overall
artistic composition of the painting.

Figure 10.2.2 The Large Bathers, By Cezanne. [Online image] Available from: [accessed 14 October

10.3. Fauvism

According to Arty Factory: Fauvism- New Possibilities for Colour in Art (2014: Online),
Fauvism was born from Post-Impressionist artist Gauguin who explored the symbolic

use of colour in his paintings. Artists of the Fauvism movement started to experiment
with colour as a means of communicating subtext rather than recreating scenes in
visually accuracy. Colour was vibrantly used, in bold brushstrokes, often seemingly
random in placement, this is characteristic of the movement (Spivey, n.d: online). A
further characteristic of Fauvism, lends to the origin of the movements name. Les Fauves
can be translated to mean wild beasts, one interest in the Fauvism movement was
portraying scenes and depictions of more primitive scenarios and figures (Spivey, n.d:
online). For example in figure 10.3.1 below, Matisses Joy of Life depicts non
westernised figures in a sunny meadow. The bright colours give indication to warmth
and atmosphere rather than natural colour schemes, the style captures an overall
expression stylistically rather than realistically.

Figure 10.3.1 Bonheur de Vivre (Joy of Life) By Matisse, 1905. [Online image] Available
from: [accessed 14 October

Figure 10.3.2 is an iconic Matisse portrait, which encapsulates the essence of the
Fauvism movement- the abstract use of colour. Green stripe (Madam Matisse) expresses
the use of colour as a means to enhance expression and composition of the painting, the

natural convention of portrait paintings with a shadow line across the face is used with a
difference- rather than showing a darker side to the face, this is expressed with cooler
colours and the right side of the face is further illuminated by the brush strokes
(Artionado: Inside Matisse: 2011).

Figure 10.3.2 Green Stripe (Madam Matisse) by Matisse, 1905. [Online image]
Available from:
stripe.jpg [accessed 14 October 2014]

10.4. Expressionism

Expressionist artists aimed to create work that did not simply present the world around
them, or provide subtle meanings and hidden interpretations- the art movement at its
core aimed to show exaggerated emotion from a subjective point of view of the artist and
how the world around him is perceived (Art Movements: Expressionism, 2014: Online).
According to the same source, the art- in its attempt to convey intense and overt

emotional energy- becomes characterised by distortion, and harsh, quick brush strokes
rather than finely blended finished products.

One iconic Expressionist portrait which encapsulates the movement is Edward munchs
The Scream as seen in figure 10.4.1 below. This portrait stands as a clear example of the
movements intentions to communicate intense emotion with the viewer and to create a
physical expression of a subjective emotional experience. In Munchs own words he
describes the context for the painting below;

I was walking along the road with two friends. The sun set. I felt a tinge of melancholy.
Suddenly the sky became a bloody red. I stopped, leaned against the railing, dead tired.
And I looked at the flaming clouds that hung like blood and a sword over the blue-black
fjord and city. My friends walked on. I stood there, trembling with fright. And I felt a
loud, unending scream piercing nature." - Munch, 1892 (Arty Factory: Expressionism,
2014: online)

Figure 10.4.1 The scream, By Edward Munch. [Online image] Available from:
movements/expressionism/munch.jpg [accessed 15 October 2014]

10.5. Surrealism

The Surrealist movement took place during the 1920s and 30s during the popularity of
Sigmund Freuds psychological theories regarding the conscience and unconscious id,
ego and super ego. As a result artists began to try to encapsulate the surreal through
dream like images, and various psychological states (Gersh-Nesic, 2014: online). Gersh-
Nesic (2014: online) explains characteristics of Surrealist art as delving into the deep and
sometimes extremely dark world of the subconscious, with themes of mystery and the
impossible, deep seated fears and dreams and states of mind, often regarded as socially

Salvador Dali was one of the most iconic Surrealist painters; figure 10.5.1 below is one
of his iconic works which encompasses the essence of Surrealism. The title of the
painting, Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second before
Awakening, is self explanatory- it is a visualization of the womans dream moments
before she is woken. This painting could be analysed in terms of the Freudian theories of dreams
as a gateway to the unconscious, with links to the reality and symbolism in the painting. True to
the thematic style of surrealism, each portrait and painting is open to endless interpretation.
Figure 10.5.2 below, by Rene Magritte, is another easily recognisable portrait of this
movement. Son of Man is a clear example of the abstract nature of Surrealist art, which
addresses audiences with more questions than answers.

Figure 10.5.1 Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second
Before Awakening, by Salvador Dali. [Online image] Available from: http://img3.rnkr-
around-a-pomegranate-a-second-before-awakening-artwork-photo-u1.jpg [accessed 15
October 2014]

Figure 10.5.2 Son of Man, by Rene Magritte. [Online image] Available from: [accessed 15
October 2014]

10.6. Abstract Expressionism

The period of Abstract Expressionism followed the end of WWII and the aftermath
thereof during the 1940s and 1950s, this movement was built on the idea of surrealism
and quickly became popular from its base in New York (The Art Story: Abstract
Expressionism, 2014: online). According to Paul (2004; online) in the context of the
Great Depression the artists attempted to create works that spoke into universal theme of
emotion and psychological state. The overall movement lacks stylistic identifying
characteristics as seen in the other movements, however can be categorised by Paul
(2004: online) into two categories of thematic content; reflective, cerebral focus[ed]
content, versus dynamic, energetic gesture.

The Art Story: Abstract Expressionism (2014: online) explains a number of
characteristics of abstract expressionism, as described below. Firstly, the artists tended to
create avant-garde style works which spoke loud messages based on personal experience
and universal themes. Symbolism played a large part in the content of the art pieces as
well as the already popular Surrealist fascination with the psyche, myth and self
expression. Paul (2004: online) explains the work of the period to sometimes lack theme
and purpose in its abstract content, such as the works of Jackson Pollock, where the
artists of the time placed the highest importance on the process of creating the work
rather than the final product, and aimed to challenge the norms, techniques and styles of
the existing art. Other famous artists of the movement were; Mark Rothko, Franz Kline,
Willem de Kooning, as well as many more. Figure 10.6.1 is an example of de Koonings
portrait paintings, this art movement delved into works of art rather than portrait
paintings and hence there are extensive works by artists such as Pollock and Rothko
which encapsulate the movement but to not however fall under portrait art.


Figure 10.6.1 Woman I, by Willem de Kooning, [online image] Available from: [accessed 16
October 2014]

10.7. Pop Art

This new art form developed in the newly optimistic environment of Britain during the
1950s, and aimed to acknowledge- in a non critical way the pop cultures, increased
mass media and consumerism of the time (Gersh-Nesic, 2014: online). According to
Arty Factory: Pop Art (2014: online), Pop Art can be described as encapsulating the
young people of the time, iconic celebrities, lifestyle, fashion and culture with a positive
and vibrant outlook. Stylistically the art movement can be characterised by its use of
bright colours and strong influence from comic books, as well as content of anything
popular, new and focussed towards mass media and advertising (Gersh-Nesic, 2014:


Figure 10.7.1 Marilyn Monroe, By Andy Warhol, 1962. [Online image] Available from:
1962.jpg [accessed 17 October 2014]

Figure 10.7.2 Just what is it that Makes Todays Homes so Different, so Appealing? By
Richard Hamilton, 1956. [Online image] Available from:
ilton.jpg [accessed 17 October 2014]

Figures 10.7.1 and 10.7.2 are probably two of the most recognisable and succinct
representations of the Pop Art movement- both portraits encapsulate the overall stylistic
elements of the movement, as well as the themes commonly found in Pop Art. Figure
10.7.2 captures most of what would be found in the art of the time- the comics,
television and consumerist culture.


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