Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Portraiture and the Self

Joanna Woodall's "Introduction: facing the subject"
In her article, Woodall presents the major changes in the aesthetics, uses and theories of portraiture from the Renaissance through to the 20th century.  Dualism is the idea that the intellect, identity and mind is separated from the material and decaying body (mind vs. body).

Renaissance saw an interest in classical antiquity (Ancient Greece and Rome) and an emphasis on individualism.  Portraiture represented the status, power, interests and achievements of its sitter.  In addition, having your portrait painted meant you were rich enough to afford commissioning an artist and thus further establish your status in society.  Naturalistic portraiture suggested the importance and power of the represented individual by linking the sitter genealogically to a reputable ancestry.  The aim was one of permanence: the sitter when represented would become eternally present even after death.

Velasquez, Philip IV on Horseback, 1634-35

Portraits of rulers and nobility were not just representations of identity, but representations of power, further re-establishing their right to rule.

The notion of permanence was challenged with the onset of photography when it suddenly became easily accessible for nearly everyone to have their likeness captured "eternally".
What is portraiture?
Woodall writes, "More fundamentally, the early twentieth-century rejection of figurative imagery challenged the belief that visual resemblance to a living or once-living model is necessary or appropriate to the presentation of identity."

Marc Quinn, Self, 1991
Quinn's life-size cast of his own head, using his own blood.
Gavin Turk, Che Guevara
Turk casted himself for this life-sized sculpture of Che Guevara.  Is this a portrait of Turk or Guevara? 

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