PORTRAITS: Painting the Beautiful Women

Princess Albert de Broglie
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Oil on canvas Size121.2 × 90.7 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art Manhattan,
New York, USA

About the art of portrait making, Oscar Wilde said that "Every portrait, that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter."

The artists of bygone centuries are becoming a substantially forgotten class. However, some of them would never be eliminated from our memory. Ingres is one of them. He is believed to be a master in portrait painting.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780 –1867) was a French Artist. He is believed one of the main artists belonging to the movement of art named the Neoclassical movement. His paintings suggest that he had tilted his work towards the romanticism movement of painting. For a period he depended on the income received from miscellaneous pencil drawings he did for the tourists. La Grande Odalisque is one of the memorable paintings that he did on commission.

Ingres had acquired his style of painting and drawing from the early stage of his career. He painted the dresses of his models with equal grace as he painted the spotless face of the women. During the passage of his artistic journey, his style of functioning rarely changed. 

Oil on Canvas

Ingres had from the beginning of his art career proved his artistic prowess in executing the suavity of outline and extraordinary control of the parallel that would help to model the forms. Ingres believed that the drawing is the probity of the art, the honesty of the art depicted. So he applied his beliefs in his paintings, too. Thus his paintings reflected the presence of proper drawing and also witness the firmness of the outline underneath the art-piece.

In this portrait, Ingress had displayed most of the characteristics his paintings were known to be possessing. After Ingres completed many illustrious portraits of the people of royal families and other people, he got the commission for painting this portrait of an extraordinarily beautiful lady. 

The lady was twenty-eight-year-old Princesse de Broglie (1825–1860). It was given to the artist’s understanding that the princess was shy in postures and deeply religious. In this portrait, the lady is unquestionably beautiful beyond description. But the artist has poured his painting skills and intuitions into making the portrait so beautiful.           

Madame Moitessier Oil on Canvas
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres 
National Gallery, Central London

Apart from the beauty of the lady sitting for a portrait—the use of posturing and the light had added to the aesthetic outcome of the artist's labour in making this painting. The type of cloth from which this dress was made was the new entrants in the European market. Ingres was not agreeable to accept the commission for this painting, as he wanted to concentrate on the historic paintings. But due to his personal friendship with Madame Moiteessier, he accepted it. However, the beauty of madame had played a vital role in Ingress's acceptance of the commission. 

For several reasons, the portrait was completed after twelve years of waiting. Bright colours, red and yellow used as dominant colours, with a subdued and smooth background, narrate how the painter had mastered his skill for creating a chiaroscuro. This has created a sense of volume in the figure. The reflection image in the mirror was a superbly executed task.

In his late years of life, Renoir had cultivated an interest in classic art with the brush of an impressionist. He concentrated on ensuring that how the sunlight affects flesh tones. Renoir was very much affected by the beautiful models who worked for him. Here a lady painter herself had posed as a model for the painting.

John Smart: A Lady
Cincinnati Art Museum 
Watercolour on Ivory
Portrait Miniature-1782

PORTRAIT IN WATERCOLOUR: While painting a portrait of a person, the artist must learn the structure of the face first. While painting a portrait of a person, the artist must learn the structure of the face first. Then comes the idea about the structure and definition of the anatomy. Thereafter the painter can use his or her knowledge starting with the simple drawings of the form to the finalization of the portrait. Here the preparatory pencil drawings would help an artist to make the painting a mistake-proof and well-proportioned one. However complicated the face and the figure to be painted may be, the artist should take time to learn the exact anatomy.

A well-painted portrait would show the inner qualities of the person whose portrait is done, as the aim of the artists cannot be limited to painting the contours of the face and other limbs of the subject or the model. While doing the portrait, the adept handling of watercolours is quite essential, too, as there are very few chances of correcting any mistake done while painting. These colours also need special care on the part of the artists and the owner of the paintings.

TIPs FOR PORTRAIT ARTISTS: Allow your model for a rest after one hour. The constant sitting would make him or her bored and the expressions on the face would change considerably.

When an artist decides to make a portrait in pencil or watercolours, the prime factor he would think about how the light would fall on the face and another visible part of the person being portrayed. The light, the sunlight, can be bolstering or pale; the light can be intense or diffuse; it would affect the outcome of the final picture accordingly. The watercolourist sets his or her palette and watercolours following the pattern of the light.

Portrait painting in watercolour is an art supported by intuition. It is the art and artist should cultivate. It is also a technique that can be learnt. Portrait painting in watercolours can be a very challenging assignment. It is complicated, as the water colouring would not allow the artist to rectify any error.

Be Ready in Advance      Before starting a watercolour portrait, one should consider several factors. It should be decided in advance which colours are to be used. The tonal values of colours also should be thought about. In the case of oil colours, you have the option of repainting on a layer that you want to hide. In watercolours, such facilities are not available. In addition to this, there are other aspects like a technique for painting hair and giving the effect of lighting are major factors to keep in mind. Here are some and useful tips to help you paint a portrait.

How to Start       Generally, the painter starts his or her work of portraying from the eyes of the person to be portrayed. Painting the eyes is the factor that can make or break the whole portrait, as the eyes should resemble near to perfection with the real appearance. While painting both of the eyes, an artist tries to get the relationship between all the features accurate. It would be better to start with colouring the corners of the eyes, keeping in mind the distance to the bridge of the nose from the eyes. It is like letting the eyes and nose having a live dialogue.

Know the Facial Features Well     Keen attention on the face is a necessary aspect of portraying. Artist can take the help of photographs. But the person to be portrayed should give several personal settings. It would make the artist familiar with the facial features of the person being portrayed. In the case of watercolour, this task would become tricky, as the artist have to complete the portrait within a given time. Moreover, the artist should avoid concentrating exclusively on one factor for a long. While drawing with a pencil or painting with your brush, you should constantly be moving between the various features you can see on the face. Paint the hair in A visible mass. It can be dark or light coloured. While painting hair, do remember adding details for a few strands but not the entirety of the hair. The paint texture can be added by glazing, as this is possible when you are doing it in watercolour. The glazing of a transparent colour would add liveliness to the portrait.

Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919) was a master in the impressionist style that celebrated beauty from whatever elements he might come across. He had painted several beautiful portraits adorning the charm of the models sitting before him. His paintings and portraits are notable for their vibrant light and saturated colour, focusing on people in candid composition, and fusing the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of colour.

Many artists have painted their own faces, self-portraits. The self-portrait is one of the favourite subjects and to an extent fundamental to the history of Western art. From the time of master painter Jan Van Eyck, and through the exotic explorations of Rembrandt, or the self-depictions of Edvard Munch to the giant pixellated compositions of Chuck Close, the subject of portrait painting has varied; enormously enriching itself in respect of purpose and style. Here the master artist had painted his self-portrait.

TIPs FOR PORTRAIT ARTISTS: Avoid placing the head too high or too low on canvas, as it would make the person taller or smaller in height. Keep the sides lighter, giving full highlight to the portrait.

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