What are the Different Types of Portrait Painting?


Portrait painting serve the purpose of recording an outward appearance of an individual, mainly capturing the facial expression that is able to make oneself recognizable to the real person, at a particular moment in his/her life. Before photography was invented, family members from the noble family, wealthy people, officials, merchants would have their portrait painted. During that time, or the early centuries, artists were employed by all these affluent people. There do not have any choice: their position obliged them to paint what was demanded of them.

In the next following paragraphs, you will be reading different types of portrait paintings that have been practiced traditionally by master artists. You may see some of the illustrations below.

  1. Profile portrait focused attention on the outline of the face without distracting you, as the viewer, with any particular expression. Side view is used, instead of other angle facing. It was to emphasized one’s authority and nobility, such as those ancient medals, coins or currency notes which you have seen. See illustration 1.1, The Liberty Head nickel

  2. Frontal full view portrait painting during 15th century, appears mostly for godly figures, myth and heroes, highly worshiped immortals. Theses rare portraits with only frontal view makes an important association between the model and God and eternity.

  3. Three-quarter portrait is somewhere in-between, is considered better suited to illustrating the transitory nature of man. It allow the artist to play with nuance o expression. It is less commonly seen these days, that one will preferred three-quarter portrait.

  4. Bust-Length portrait shows a person from the shoulders up. You will not see their hands with the portrait frame. See illustration 1.2, Portrait of Camille Pissarro

  5. As compared to half-length portrait, you will see an individual who is either sitting on a chair or standing. Artist will paint any area from waist level onwards. Quite often, with their hands cross-folded or resting on the arm of the chair. One of the most popular half-length portrait is The Mona Lisa, painting by Leonardo da Vince.

  6. Full-length portrait shows the subject standing up. Portrait of this kind were developed in the 16th century. Such a pose is particularly aristocratic, majestic-looking, or even regal, underlining the social standing of the person. At times, the artist will include the surrounding landscape. This kind of paintings depict height of elegance and supremacy.

  7. Self-portrait during the early days referred to artist who paint himself with the help of a mirror. It is stand-alone as works of art. The best artist in the late 19th century, who self-portrait himself was none other than Vincent van Gogh. Over 30 pieces of his work consist of him. See illustration 1.3, Self-Portrait, Vincent van Gogh

  8. State portrait is generally an official portrait, highlighting the social position of an individual and power he holds. See illustration 1.4, The Emperor Napoleon

  9. Group portrait consist of 2 or more figures posing together, showing a significance of togetherness or unity. It is becoming popular these days that group portrait, including wedding couple, friends and family portrait, children portrait, or even with their pets, has been reproduce from photograph.

  10. Photo portrait, as the term speak for itself. In this context, we are referring to painting directly from your photograph. It is different from portrait photography, where a mechanical device is involved, including digital editing from your computer. The uniqueness of photo portrait is capable of combining figures from different photographs and combine into one handmade paintings. Physical appearance of the model is not necessary. It is contemporary, yet preserving traditionalism.

Profile Portrait: The Liberty Head nickel
Illustration 1.1, The Liberty Head nickel

Image Credit: Flick

Bust-Length portrait: Camille Pissarro, Artist
Illustration 1.2, Portrait of Camille Pissarro

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Illustration 1.4, The Emperor Napoleon
Illustration 1.4, The Emperor Napoleon

Image Credit: Wikipedia