Portraits have always held an important place in the history of art for both artists and patrons. Initially commissioned as the only way wealthy patrons could display their importance and wealth in society artists were chosen to portray the most flattering images of the sitter, from the famous images of Henry VIII and his future wives to modern day portrait paintings where honesty became more important in the paintings.
A portrait can display so many messages, whether a self-portrait or indeed commissioned. In these days of challenging times we are perhaps all looking at ourselves a little more, how we are we are coping with 2020 and the new normal? How many portraits will be painted this year with sitters wearing masks? The portrait tells a story not only about the sitter but about their circumstances and the world around them, from the melancholy to the positive happy vibes that either the artist or the sitter wish to convey. From portraits of our present political and royal leaders to those of the homeless and desperate, artists have a wealth of areas and messages they can convey through this subject matter.
These times have also represented a new way of completing and indeed unveiling the portrait as seen in the recent videocall’s of the Queen with artist Miriam Escofet and her tribute to the Queen. Commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth office symbolism in art runs strong, as Escofet revealed she had hidden the FCO sign on the empty teacup on the table! Symbols, methods, interactions, responses from the Queen, as a first, all via Zoom — times have changed!
An artist who has used portraits to convey many moods and moments is Brian Parker. His portrait of the wistful ‘Niki’ gazing out of the window surrounded by imposing buildings and windows takes us into her thoughtful moment. Parker’s stylised lines and shadows drawing our eye into every corner of the canvas, exploring and slightly intruding on Niki’s moment.
‘Husbands’ by Brian Parker is another portrait displaying the gentle affection of the two men, comfortable in their casual environment and yet slightly enclosed and framed by the windows shutters. Parker maintains his structured style and form within these portraits, sending subtle messages whilst exploring people and portraits.
The portrait is an ever moving theme which will continue to win the battle against selfies and modern technology because nothing can ever speak so loudly as an artist’s intimate portrait of their sitter, where the character, the messages and the moment are so cleverly explored and displayed.
Lisa Freeman — BA Hons
After twenty-five years as an experienced arts PR Lisa is now further expanding her focus within the art world to develop PR and Marketing campaigns within all sectors of arts and culture, from art galleries to exhibitions, as well as individual artist campaigns and charity art foundations.