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ESSAYWhat is the Purpose of Different Styles in Depicting the Portrait

ESSAYWhat is the Purpose of Different Styles in Depicting the Portrait

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Published by: J.J. Jolanta Jasiulionyte on Nov 27, 2010
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Question: What is the Purpose of Different Styles in Depicting the Portrait?

Name: Jolanta Jasiulionyte Course title: CG Arts and Animation, 1st year Unit: Anatomy Date: 23 10 2009 Word count: 1.512



Introduction……………………………………………….…………….2 Main body……………………………………………………….……….3-7 Conclusion……………………………………………………….……...8 Bibliography……………………………………..………………………9



While investigating portraiture we become aware of the variety of styles the portraits can be presented in, so what is the purpose of them in depicting the portrait? To answer the questions there’s a need to explore at least few of the genres and styles. By understanding what they bring to the portrait, what is their meaning and role, we might than generalize the overall purpose of styles in the portraiture. I specifically chose to investigate, caricature, expressionism, realism and pop art, styles and genres which are quit different in both their overall appearance and purpose. To get to better understand the styles mentioned above I had to explore some books in depth for example “Expressionism”, “The Art of the Caricature”, “Pop art a Retrospective”, “How to read paintings” ,these books became the key of my research . So to begin with, I’ll start with Pop art.


Main Body Pop art is considered to be one of the most banal and plain art styles there is (when talking about the search for meaning). But is it the same with portraits depicted in this style? To speak more concretely, let’s take Andy Warhol’s, most famous pop art’s artist, artwork, for instance - ‘Gold Marilyn Monroe’ – and highlight the main features of the style in which it was created and what effect and meaning it brings out.

Figure 1: Warhol, Andy. Gold Marilyn Monroe. The features of the above positioned work (also relevant to the rest of Andy Warhol’s art) are blotted-lines and monochromatic colors. Also the figure is concealed in metallic monochrome section of paints, and the composition is very minimal (single figure in the centre). To make sense of it, the applied aesthetics not only take away all the complexity , but also it shifts the portrayed person’s real outlooks to more simplified, brand-looking image. With this in mind we might assume, that portrait becomes not only simple and plane but also it doesn’t say much about the portrayed person’s life and might not offer idea about his identity. Contrary to that, it asks us only to concentrate on the surface of the image and admire the style in which it was produced. In addition, this style was used for commercial purposes, so the images were


mass-produced. For it became quantity it lost his quality (its meaning). Andy Warhol’s words illustrate this best:

Figure 2: Warhol,Andy.“Thirty are better than one” ‘The more you look at the same exact thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel’. (A. Warhol; 1989: 457) To sum all up, portrait (portrayed person’s image) in pop art becomes only a “stylistic picture” often used for commercial purpose. And there are other styles as well, which concentrate only on the outer looks of the portrayed personality. The second style to be investigated here is realism. As researched, portraits in this style are depicted as closest to real image (to a live person) as it is possible.

Figure 3: Lambeth, William.“Sumburu warrior” 5

Like in William’s Lambeth, CG artist’s work “Sumburu warrior” so in all realistic portraits no details are left behind and no details are added, that aren’t there. The viewer is expected to be fascinated with accurately reproduced skin textures and wrinkles, with the accurately mimicked facial expression and realistic colors and tones. As well as pop art, it concentrates on the outer looks of the portrayed one, but rather seeking to reproduce man’s natural beauty, without embellishing it or applying any aesthetics, but there is one more interesting feature about realism. Creators in realism often choose to portray ordinary people of the cultures society, leaving links to its social or political views. So portraits in this style not only inform us about the factual outlooks of the personality, but introduce us with cultural background. To summarize , this style gives the viewer information about stereotype personality of the culture and aims to show human’s factual appearance measuring out only the physical aspects including no interpretations to the image, whereas other styles are devoted only to that. In comparison, caricature, one of the portrait genres, reaches for whole other goals by other meanings. To summarize research material, caricature’s task is to bring out the most characteristic features of the personality depicted (often especially pointing out his or hers imperfections and defects), and to make some point about the nature of man. This is reached by exaggerating most striking features, representing them in grotesque or ludicrous style. Contrary to realism it distorts the real outlook of the individual but not like in pop art it doesn’t concentrate only on the stylistic solution, even oppositely, the produced work asks the viewer to search for the idea, the creator wanted to show about the drawn personality. What is more, because of the very expressive and out-speaking stylistics of the caricature, the portraits in this style often become a tool to speak about social or political issues and represents creators point of view. A great example of this would be Jason Seilor’s, USA’s one of the most famous caricaturists work.


Figure 4: Seilor, Jason. Obama…Editor in Chief! To sum up, caricature’s aim is to point out the character of the personality, or to talk about something using the exaggerated image of it. Its purpose is to make us think. There are more styles in which portraits are produced which insist our responds to them. Furthermore investigating styles in which portraits are depicted and looking for one which would require a better observation expressionism (as a style) clearly stands out. Among all other styles it lacks of “beauty” (thorough and detailed finishing, tonality and so on) and resemblance to reality, contrary to that, it reaches to create unease. (To discuss this further, I chose to take well known expressionism artist’s Edvard Munch’s most famous work - “the Scream”).

Figure 5: Munch, Edvard. 1893. The Scream


To intensify the emotional feeling painter used brute distortions and exaggerations - twisted expressions, howling mouth as well symbols to better express the feeling. Contrary to realistic style portraits, which were trying to reveal the factual outer beauty of nature, expressive portrait’s goal is to explore man’s inner life, figure out his destiny and reveal the essence of the soul within the portrait. Therefore paintings lacked of realistic details but contrary were simplified, retaining most expressive parts of the body and leaving it schematic, drawing only its silhouette (like in “the Scream” it seems we can only see the interpretations of the body, face and hands as well environment). But also the expressive portraits show us the captured mood (at this particular example, it is believed artist wanted to express the horror of the world and its violence, where the figure is shown not as screaming, but rather as a scream itself). As a result lines are doubled, colors are plain and contrasted and the brush strokes are harsh. But most importantly, “incorrect” depiction of the picture not only reveals man’s mood and soul, it either allows the observer to interpret the picture in his own way, it is expressive work’s main goal. So the portrait in this style asks to be understood from our own point of view, leaving space for personal interpretations rather than suggesting a prepared answer.


Conclusion Despite it was only a quick look-through some styles and the meaning they bring to the portrait, it might give a better idea what role do styles generally play in portraiture. First of all, different styles give us different ways of talking about the shown personality. For example, portrait in pop art becomes merely a “nice picture” to look at, asking no deeper observations nor interpretations, offering no deeper ideas about the identity that was drawn, whereas an expressive portrait might even raise a feeling of disgust or the portrait might have lost the last remaining feature from which we could recognize the portrayed person in order to engender the feeling of unease and curiosity and, as a subsequent, a deeper level of understanding about man’s inner world; Realistic portrait would show the portrayed one in an objective light, concentrating only on the surface, while caricature aims to bring out main characteristic features of the personality and still keep a certain level of resemblance. Moreover, a particular style in which portrait was created, prepares the portrait for some sort of use. For instance, pop art portraits are used for mass-production, commercial purpose; a caricature can become a tool of exposing political and social issues and realistic portrait is used to “report” the ordinary. In the same way other styles would prepare the image of the identity for other kinds of purposes. To conclude, a variety of styles give a variety of projections of the personality. It moves our focus on different issues or ideas (It helps to concentrate our attention on man’s outlooks or on his soul, to see it as an icon or to get better know his character and so on);as well discuses different problems. In other words, each style gives us a whole new understanding of the person depicted.


Bibliography: Illustrations: Figure 1: Andy Warhol; 1962; Gold Marilyn Monroe; silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint;211.4X144.7 cm; In: McShine,Kynaston; 1989; Andy Warhol a Retrospective; New York; Museum of modern art Figure 2: Andy Warhol; 1963; Thirty are Better than One; 279.4X240;In: McShine,Kynaston; 1989; Andy Warhol a Retrospective; New York; Museum of modern art Figure 3: William Lambeth; Sumburu Warrior; Soft image IXSI, ZBrush,modo; In: Expose 5; 2007; Australia; Mark Snoswell Figure 4: Jason Seiler;2009; Obama…Editor in Chief!; Photoshop;In: http://forums.cgsociety.org/ Figure 5: Edvar Munch; 1893; The Scream; tempera and pastel on board; In: http://www.edvard-munch.com/gallery/anxiety/scream.htm (Accessed 14 october 2009) Books: McShine,Kynaston; 1989; Andy Warhol a Retrospective; New York; Museum of modern art; Exotique 2; 2007; Australia, Ballistic publishing; Lucie-Smith, Edward; 1981; The Art of the caricature; London; Orbis publishing; Expose 5; 2007; Australia; Mark Snoswell; Digital Art for 21st Century Renderosity’2004; UK; Aappl; Madoff, Steven Henry; 1997; Pop Art a Critical History; England; University of California Laneyrie-Dagen; Nadeijie; 2004; How to Read Paintings; Larousse; Dutton E. P.; 1979; Expressionism; America; Wilde, Oscar; 2000; The Picture of Dorian Gray; London; Penguine; Lewis, Susan and Richard; 2009; The Power of Art; USA; Clar Baxter Quotes: McShine,Kynaston; 1989; Andy Warhol a Retrospective; New York; Museum of modern art; page 457; Internet sites: http://forums.cgsociety.org/; Computer generated arts;(Accessed16 10 2009); http://www.jasonseiler.com ; caricaturist’s Jason Seilor’s personal website; (accessed 10 10 2009); http://www.edvard-munch.com/ Edvard Munch art; (Accessed 09 10 2009);


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