Canton Museum of Art galleries are currently featuring the Canton Artists League's VISIONS exhibition. Stark County High School Art Exhibition will be on display starting March 31.
Read more

Permanent Collection - The Changing Face of Portraiture

December 3, 2010 - March 6, 2011

 

 

This exhibit from the Museum's Permanent Collection explores how portraiture has changed,and yet not changed, over time.

What do we want from portraiture?   Apparently it should be a recognizable image of a loved one, a revered figure or a compelling personality.  Any yet, the encounter must also be one of surprise.  We rely on the artist’s imagination to help us see past a subject’s outward appearance toward a larger reality.  Throughout history, artists have made their own features, as well as those of family and friends, their primary subject of portraiture.  As the twentieth century came to a close, there was fear that the traditional methods of portraiture hand entered a permanent decline.

In earlier American portraits, it is social stature and a good likeness, rather than deep psychological penetration or sentimental softening, that is the real issue.  The commissioned portrait in the 18th and 19th century was a sign of social position and a way of assuring that position to one’s posterity. By the beginning of the 20th century, a clear reaction against the refined upper-class or upper-middle-class may be seen in the representations of a lower-class subject.  Working class people are depicted with a crude directness, bold slashing brushwork, which is intended to signify the authenticity and realness of the subject. 

We can derive a certain amount of interesting factual or social information from some of these works: we can learn the mode of dress in the 1800s or how a person is perceived in the 20th century.  All of tthese images provide us with an insight into a wide variety of historically conditioned, deeply held cultural assumptions about people. 

Alice Neel, John