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My perfect portrait

Françoise GilotWhen I started DaydreamTourist, Picasso’s portrait of Françoise Gilot was a convenient logo.  I even joked in the About section that this is what I look like if he had painted me.  But that got me thinking.  Of all artists past and present, who would I want to create my portrait?

I should say I have always loved portraiture.  The end result is a blend of both how the sitter (or their family) wanted the individual to be represented, what society valued at the time, maybe some of what the artist thinks of the subject and, if you’re lucky, a realistic likeness of someone who once existed.

Domenico Ghirlandaio “Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni” is a lesson in wealth and virtue as an elegantly put together woman sits amid her possessions.  Her rigidity reflects her status which is emphasized by the inscription, O art, if thou were able to depict the conduct and soul, no lovelier painting would exist on earth.

Domenico Ghirlandaio - Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni

Domenico Ghirlandaio “Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni” 1489-1490, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

There is something to be said for sentimentality and tenderness.  For example, Norman Rockwell’s Richard Nixon seems friendly, familiar and just a tad endearing.

Normal Rockwell - Richard Nixon

Norman Rockwell “Richard Nixon”, 1968, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

Many of my favorite masters of realism worked during the Northern Renaissance and produced luminous life-like figures.

Portrait of a Man in a red turban by Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck, “The Portrait of a Man” (or “Portrait of a Man in a Turban”)  1433, National Gallery, London

Without a doubt though, I would want my portrait done by John Singer Sargent.  I have heard it said that Sargent liked painting women and it shows in his work.  Looking at his pieces, you start to understand the personality of his subject through quirks in their poses, faces or the portrait’s composition.  I have also admired the fluidity and range of his brushwork moving from well executed facial features to impressionistic clothing and abstracted backgrounds.

John Singer Sargent "Lady Agnew of Lochnaw"

John Singer Sargent “Lady Agnew of Lochnaw”, 1892-93 National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

John Singer Sargent "Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes"

John Singer Sargent “Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes” 1897, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

John Singer Sargent, "Miss Elsie Palmer"

John Singer Sargent, “Miss Elsie Palmer”, 1889-90, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

John Singer Sargent - Mrs. Edward Darley Boit

John Singer Sargent, “Mrs. Edward Darley Boit” 1887, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

John Singer Sargent “Miss Helen Dunham”, private collection

john singer sargent  - beatrice townsend

John Singer Sargent, “Beatrice Townsend” 1882, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

I suppose I should also point out that his portraits of men were really amazing too.

John Singer Sargent - Robert Louis Stevenson

John Singer Sargent, “Robert Louis Stevenson” 1887  The Taft Museum, Cincinnati

John Singer Sargent - Arthur James Balfor

John Singer Sargent, “Arthur James Balfor” 1908, National Portrait Gallery, London

John Singer Sargent - Frederick Law Olmsted

John Singer Sargent “Frederick Law Olmsted”, 1895, Biltmore House, Asheville, North Carolina

Thanks to the John Singer Sargent Virtual Gallery for images and inspiration.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hands down; Tamara de Lempicka.


    January 19, 2012
    • I could see that. More stylized that Sargent but very dramatic.


      January 21, 2012
  2. Yes! Sargent!! RLS is one of my favorite writers, have not seen this painting. Also love the portrait of Olmsted amid his greenery. If only Sargent had been around to do recently unveiled portrait of Kate Middleton:\


    January 11, 2013

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