Look at contemporary as well as historic artists who work on the face in different ways. Look at the subtle approach of Graham Little who uses coloured pencils and fine repeated marks and lines. Now look at the more fluid blocking in of tone by Elizabeth Peyton. Both artists use colour to draw the face in a ‘painterly’ manner.
Graham Little blends Romanticism and Postmodernism in his intricately detailed gouache and colored pencil drawings, in which he revels in the textures, patterns, and composition of fashion advertisements, while simultaneously re-positioning its female subjects as emotionally complex protagonists (as opposed to living mannequins). Sourcing images from such iconic fashion magazines as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, dating from the mid-1970s to now, he works for months on an individual drawing, altering the advertisements to suit his own vision. In his drawings, the flat, glossy magazine images are transformed into richly textured scenes, abundant with objects and variously patterned textiles, centered upon a solitary, inscrutable woman. Little’s vignettes are enigmatic and evocative, as are his women, who often appear moody, contemplative, or quietly animated.
Elizabeth Peyton is a contemporary American painter best known for her intimate, small-scale portraits of celebrities, friends, and historical figures. Characterized by transparent washes of pigment and a jewel-tone palette, Peyton’s works address notions of idolatry and obsession. “A painting of a person can be descriptive, but for me it’s about all the things that make up a picture—the feelings, the brushstrokes—more than describing somebody,” she has said. Notable figures she has painted include Kurt Cobain, Barack Obama, and David Bowie. Born in 1965 in Danbury, CT, Peyton went on to study at the School of Visual Arts. In 1993, she held a solo show of drawings in room 828 of the historic Chelsea Hotel, launching her career in the art world. By her second solo exhibition in 1995 at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, she had achieved widespread acclaim, and has since held major exhibitions at the New Museum in New York, the Royal Academy in London, and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis, among others. For her interest in portraiture, her work has been compared to Robert Mapplethorpe, as well as to other contemporary figurative painters such as John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage. She lives and works in New York, NY.
Hambling is a painter as well as a sculptor. She is known for her intricate land and seascapes, including a celebrated series of North Sea paintings created since late 2002. She is also known for her portraits, with several works in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
‘Do you always have to like the people you paint?’ She says: ‘Portraits are about love… Well, it’s all about love, right Wakefield? The whole thing is about love and you can’t make a work of art without love.’ What a happy antithesis Maggi is to the late Lucian Freud. For Maggi, the artist has to forget herself, inhabit the subject. For Freud, every portrait, every subject he painted was autobiographical. ‘It is all about myself,’ he said. You can tell.
Marlene Dumas born 1953
Marlene Dumas was born in Cape Town, South Africa. From 1972 to 1975 she attended Cape Town University, where she studied for a BA in Visual Arts. She then completed her studies in Haarlem, in the Netherlands.
She has lived and worked in Amsterdam since 1976. From 1978 she has exhibited internationally, and is one of Holland’s most widely admired artists. In 1995 she represented Holland in the Venice Biennale, and in 1996 the Tate Gallery exhibited a selection of her works on paper.
In the past Dumas produced paintings, collages, drawings, prints and installations. She now works mainly with oil on canvas and ink on paper. The sources she uses for her imagery are diverse and include newspaper and magazine cuttings, personal memorabilia, Flemish paintings, and Polaroid photographs. The majority of her works may be categorised as ‘portraits’, but they are not portraits in the traditional sense. Rather than representing an actual person, they represent an emotion or a state of mind. Themes central to Dumas’ work include race and sexuality, guilt and innocence, violence and tenderness.
Known as one of the most prolific painters of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso was undoubtedly a man of many talents. The Spanish artist experimented with and excelled in many mediums, from painting and drawing to sculpting and collaging. In addition to different art forms and unique materials, however, Picasso also worked in a spectacular array of styles. This constantly changing aesthetic approach is evident in his series of self-portraits, which he painted from the age of 15 until 90.
While many people recognize him only for his avant-garde, topsy-turvy paintings, his earlier work—like his self-portraits from 1896 and 1900—exhibit his ability to paint and sketch beautiful true-to-life depictions. Though a gifted draughtsman, Picasso did not dabble in this style for very long. In 1901, he entered his Blue Period—a phase in which he painted somber, stylized scenes in cool blue tones, as evident in his striking self-portrait from the same year.
Rembrandt was the greatest Dutch painter of his age and is one of the most important figures in European art. The many self-portraits he painted throughout his life provide us with a visual autobiography.
Rembrandt van Rijn was born on 15 July 1606 in Leiden, the son of a mill owner. In 1621, he began training with a local painter and in 1624-1625 he was in Amsterdam, studying with Pieter Lastman who had been to Italy and now introduced Rembrandt to international trends.
Rembrandt settled permanently in Amsterdam in 1631 and set up as a portrait painter. One of his first major public commissions was ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp’ (1632). In 1634, he married the well-connected Saskia van Uylenburgh. Rembrandt prospered, painting mythological and religious works as well as portraits, and the couple lived well.
One of Rembrandt’s most well-known paintings, ‘The Night Watch’, a group portrait of one of Amsterdam’s militia companies, was completed in 1642. Saskia died in the same year, which coincided with difficulties in Rembrandt’s business. This, coupled with his extravagance, resulted in him being declared bankrupt in 1656. His house and possessions were sold, including his own large collection of works of art.
After Saskia’s death, Rembrandt had an affair with his son’s nurse, but they quarrelled and he later began a relationship with his housekeeper, Hendrickje Stoffels. She frequently modelled for him.
Rembrandt continued to receive commissions and some of the great paintings from this period are ‘The Syndics of the Clothmakers Guild’ (1662) and ‘The Jewish Bride’ (c. 1666). Rembrandt was interested in drawing and etching as well as painting, and his etchings were internationally renowned during his lifetime.
Throughout his career, he attracted pupils who also served as his assistants. Their work can sometimes be hard to distinguish from Rembrandt’s own.
Rembrandt died on 4 October 1669.