Portraiture Case Study
“Some of the most fascinating portraits are those that offer the viewer an emotional or psychological insight into their subject” Compare and contrast the work of THREE artists who have explored the genre of portraiture. A portrait is typically defined as a representation of a specific individual, such as the artist might meet in life. “It could be drawn, painted, sculpted or photographed. A portrait is usually a statement, made firstly by the sitter, who wishes to be seen in a particular way, and secondly, by the artist, who wishes to present or represent that person.” A portrait does not merely record someone’s features, but says something about who he or she is, offering a vivid sense of a real persons presence. A self-portrait is a representation of an artist, by the artist using the same materials/media as in portraits (drawings, paintings, sculpture and photography). Self-portraiture is a powerful genre as artists are able to directly translate the emotions they are feeling, in a more intense and potent way than merely telling us verbally. The power of a particular self-portrait does not necessarily rely upon the portraits “aesthetic beauty”, rather than its ability to give us insight on the artists psychological, physical and emotional views of themselves. Frida Kahlo De Rivera (1907- 1954), was a Mexican artist whose works “were strongly linked with her own life experiences, whilst also relating to world events, politics and the wider art world.” Kahlo is best known for her self-portraits, they demonstrate her need for self-expression and her exploration of identity. Although her physical features and eccentric costumes are striking and eye-catching, it is her internal life that explodes beyond the canvas. Kahlo’s unique portrait style jumps straight to the art of profoundly felt passions and sorrows. “Juxtaposing the familiar with the strange, marrying naturalistic depiction with bizarre symbolism, Kahlo is able to convince us of the truthfulness to her inner life shown in her paintings” Kahlo is an example of an artist whose artworks emphasise and convey their own pain and suffering. Kahlo had a “volatile marriage with the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera.” She suffered lifelong health problems, many of which were the result of a horrific traffic accident Kahlo was involved as a teenager. Kahlo was riding in a bus that collided with a trolley car. Her injuries were extensive. An iron hand-rail pierced through her abdomen and uterus, ( affecting her ability to have children) among many other injuries including a broken spinal column- which becomes an important symbol in her paintings. Recovering from her injuries isolated her from other people and this isolation influenced her works, many of which are self-portraits of one sort or another. Kahlo suggested, "I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best." “The Broken Column”, painted in 1944, portrays “Kahlo’s ability to convert her emotions onto a canvas”. “The Broken Column”- the title- refers to the broken spinal column she received in the bus accident as the painting itself is an imitation of the brace she had to wear, exaggerated to accurately depict how Kahlo felt. “The painting is a ruthless testimony of the suffering that accompanied Frida for all her life.” The artist has depicted herself with her nude torso surrounded by a brutal body cast, while a cruel rupture in her body allows us to observe how a stone column -broken into several pieces- is replacing her spinal column, symbolising the consequences of the terrible bus accident. Metal nails pierce Kahlo’s face, breasts, arms, and torso, as well as her upper thigh, “hidden behind a swath of cloth.” Together the nails and pillar work to create a machinelike or man-made feel. As if implying that “Kahlo is no longer entirely human, more specifically that she is no longer a woman.” Tears stream down her face, the only hint of the pain she is...
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