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Abíódún, Rowland, , . Àkó-graphy: Òwò Portraits
2013, in: John Peffer and Elisabeth L. Cameron (eds.), Portraiture & Photography in Africa, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, pp. 287-312.
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Summary: Argues that the introduction of photography did not significantly interfere with, or terminate, the àkó legacy of portraiture. Shows instead that the stylistic elements of the àkó life-size burial effigy – a sculpted portrait that attempts to capture the physical likeness, identity, character, social status of a deceased parent – informed the photographic traditional formal portrait in Òwò, Nigeria.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Mamah, Carved, life-size, fully dressed second-burial effigy for Madam Aládé, EÌpelè- Òwò, Nigeria (1972)

Striking example of the practice. Demonstrates how the àkó tradition appears to have influenced the way elderly people posed for photographs.

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Campbell, Shelley, , . Myra: a Portrait of a Portrait
2013, in: Hannah Priest (ed.), The Female of the Species: Cultural Constructions of Evil, Women and the Feminine, Oxford: Inter-disciplinary Press.
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Summary: Considers philosophical problems with representation, particularly in regard to the loss of particularity and individuality in instances when an identity takes on symbolic proportions. Hindley, the woman, has been totally merged with Hindley, the monster. Her particularity has been subsumed as a two-dimensional stereotype by having her photo treated with obsessive media attention by being repetitively linked to that same hated stereotype.

Comment: Useful in classes focused on depiction and representation.

Artworks to use with this text:

Marcus Harvey, Myra (1995)

Despite Harvey’s attack on reflex reactions to Hindley and his verbal protest to the contrary, his portrait has further incited public outrage and denied her a chance of fair treatment. There’s a clear discrepancy between what the artist has said in interviews and what the painting appears to express.

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Chambers, Emma, , . Face to Face: Representing Facial Disfigurement
2010, in: Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, & Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, London: Routledge, pp. 179-193.
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Summary: In-depth analysis of how the Saving Faces exhibition challenges stereotypes of disabled people as dependent invalids or exotic specimens. Discusses the artist’s rejection of experimentation in favour of a painting style that is as ‘straight’ as possible (and so makes for an interesting contrast with the use of cubist painting in Anita Silver’s essays). Also draws attention to the interaction between artist and sitter and to the process of portraiture.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Mark Gilbert, Saving Faces (2000)

Gilbert was artist-in-residence at the oral and maxillofacial surgery department of a London hospital. His brief was to illustrate what is, and also isn’t, possible with modern facial surgery; and to capture the emotional journey undertaken by patients in ways that standard clinical photography cannot.

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Chino, Kaori, , . A Man Pretending to Be a Woman: On Yasumasa Morimura’s “Actresses”
2000, in: Brand, Peg Zeglin (ed.), Beauty Matters, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 252-265.
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Summary: Argues that Morimura’s portraits achieve something that depictions of the female body rarely can. Morimura invites the violent male gaze with his exposed body and then, in the next moment, snubs and nullifies it. With references to Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Sherman’s work.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, and objectification in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Yasumasa Morimura, Descent of the Actresses (1994)

Self-portraits in which the artists impersonates famous actresses.

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Freeland, Cynthia, , . Animals
2010, in: Portraits & Persons, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 4-41.
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Summary: Defines a portrait as a representation of a living being as a unique individual possessing (1) a recognizable physical body along with (2) an inner life. A third condition is that the subject consciously presents a self to be conveyed in the resulting artwork. Pictures of animals can meet the first two criteria, but not the third.

Comment: Freeland lays ground for a definition of portraits, offering a great introduction to the topic of portraiture, and representation in general. The text can inspire interesting discussions on the possible differences in depicting humans, animals and objects.

Artworks to use with this text:

George Stubbs, Whistlejacket (1761-2)

Freeland disputes the image’s status as a portrait partly because of how formulaic it appears.

Jill Greenberg, Monkey Portraits (2006)

The artist anthropomorphizes the animals, as is evident in the titles she chose for some of the works (‘The Misanthrope’, ‘Oy Veh’). So, do they qualify as portraits?

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Freeland, Cynthia, , . Expression
2010, in: Portraits & Persons, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 119-153.
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Summary: Sketches how art and science have interacted in the development of portraiture since the 17thc and how both fields have contributed to the study of facial expression. Discusses Descartes, Le Brun, Lavater, Charles Bell, Duchenne, Darwin, Ekman.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

William Blake, Democritus (1798)

Johann Kaspar Lavater included portraits of many famous people in his Essays on Physiognomy. William Blake was one of the artists who helped illustrate the English edition.

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Freeland, Cynthia, , . Intimacy
2010, in: Portraits & Persons, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 195-241.
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Sumary: Begins with a discussion of objectification, first at the cultural and social level, as investigated by Catharine MacKinnon, then at the personal level, as investigated by Martha Nussbaum. Freeland also considers what ‘subjectification’ might amount to and how portraits can either be objectifying or subjectifying.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, as well as the links between aesthetics and ethics, and objectification in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Lucian Freud, Naked portrait (1972-3)

he people in Freud’s ‘naked portraits’ are not shown as active or autonomous, but rather as inert material things. Their boundaries are violated, says Freeland.

Mary Cassatt, Children Playing on a Beach (1886)

Portraying children as autonomous, distinct individuals with inner lives.

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Freeland, Cynthia, , . Portraits in Painting and Photography
2007, Philosophical Studies 135(1): 95-109.
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Abstract: This article addresses the portrait as a philosophical form of art. Portraits seek to render the subjective objectively visible. In portraiture two fundamental aims come into conflict: the revelatory aim of faithfulness to the subject, and the creative aim of artistic expression. In the first part of my paper, studying works by Rembrandt, I develop a typology of four different things that can be meant when speaking of an image’s power to show a person: accuracy, testimony of presence, emotional characterization, or revelation of the essential “air” (to use Roland Barthes’ term). In the second half of my paper this typology is applied to examples from painting and photography to explore how the two media might differ. I argue that, despite photography’s alleged ‘realism’ and ‘transparency,’ it allows for artistic portraiture and presents the same basic conflict between portraiture’s two aims, the revelatory and the expressive.

Comment: Considers two fundamental but conflicting aims of portraiture: the revelatory aim of faithfulness to the subject, and the creative aim of artistic expression. Explores how the two media of painting and photography might differ. Argues that despite photography’s alleged ‘realism’ and ‘transparency,’ it allows for artistic portraiture and presents the same basic conflict between portraiture’s two aims, the revelatory and the expressive.

Artworks to use with this text:

Richard Avedon, Jacob Israel Avedon (1969-1973)

Photographs of the artist’s dying father. These frank portraits succeed at both artistic expression and the subtle rendering of the sitter’s inner psychological states or character.

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Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie, , . Picturing People with Disabilities: classical portraiture as reconstructive narrative
2010, in: Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, & Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, London: Routledge, pp. 179-193.
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Summary: Provides a close reading of formal portraits of people with disabilities. Focuses on the fundamental elements of traditional portraiture: frame, pose, costume, likeness. Central argument: a conservative representational genre can act in the service of a progressive politics. Through framing, pose, costume, and likeness portraits accord dignity, authority, and symbolic capital to disabled subjects.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, as well as empowerment and art’s role in power relations in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Doug Auld, Shayla (2005) Portrait of a black woman with significant burn scars

Compared and contrasted with Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington (1810).

Sasha Newley, Christopher Reeve (2004)

Juxtaposed with earlier iconic portraits of the ‘man of steel’.

Marc Quinn, Alison Lapper Pregnant (2006)

Powerfully asserting that a woman with significant disabilities who is evidently sexual, about to become a mother, is worthy of being seen on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

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Hovey, Jaime, , . Picturing Yourself: Portraits, Self-Consciousness, and Modernist Style
2006, in: A Thousand Words. Portraiture, Style, and Queer Modernism, Columbus: Ohio State University Press.
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Summary: Focuses on the modernist literary portrait in general and on Wilde’s novel in particular. Also contains multiple references to painted portraits. Argues that queer modernist portraits concentrate on dynamic aspects of style and personality, presenting both the sitter’s style and personality and the personality of the artist who renders her. Explores how style becomes another vehicle where a dangerous homosociality can be reduced into a manifestation of the merely particular (and vice versa).

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

Cleverly framed as a story about a portrait within a portrait, and written by Wilde in part to demonstrate to his artistic nemesis James McNeil Whistler the superiority of writing to painting, Dorian serves to illustrate the central thesis of Hovey’s study. Interweaves reflections on Wilde’s personal style, his style as an author, the style of the painter and of the painting, the style of the characters in the book, and queer modernist style in general.

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Pointon, Marcia, , . Portrait, Fact and Fiction
2013, in: Portrayal and the Search for Identity, Reaktion Books, pp. 23-46.
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Summary: Considers portraiture an unstable, destabilizing, potentially subversive art through which uncomfortable and unsettling convictions are negotiated. As such, it is primarily an instrumental art form, a kind of agency. Also argues that there is an element of the fictive involved in all portrait representations. Explains how portraiture is a slippery and seductive art.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Garibaldi at Caprera, frontispiece of G.M. Trevelyan, Garibaldi and the Thousand, May 1860 (1931 edition)

A reproduction of a photograph of a copy of a many times copied portrait of the guerilla leader. Devoid of monetary or aesthetic value. Not very likely that Garibaldi looked like this or posed for the artist. The portrait works to endow the historical narrative with its illusion of a unified subject.

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Pointon, Marcia, , . Slavery and the Possibility of Portraiture
2013, in: Portrayal and the Search for Identity, Reaktion Books, pp. 47-73.
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Summary: Draws attention to the fact that portraits of slaves are rarely exhibited or discussed; and that not all images of slaves are portraits. Reflects on the dynamics of power involved in portraiture and on the relation between subject and viewer in particular. Includes extensive commentary on the historical development of portraiture and the place of portraits of slaves therein.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, as well as power relations and art’s role in them in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Francis Wheatley, A Family Group in a Landscape (c.1775)

A dark clad black boy stands motionless at the extreme left of the canvass, scarcely making into the group. He is literally in the shadows.

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Smalls, James, , . African-American Self-Portraiture
2001, Third Text, pp. 47-62.
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Summary: As ‘always already’ racialized object of the white patriarchal look African-Americans have enduringly suffered from having to negotiate notions of the self from a crisis position. The act of self-portraiture for the African-American artist has the value of bestowing upon the self-portraitist a sense of empowerment.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, as well as empowerment and art’s role in power relations in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Lyle Ashton Harris, Construct #10 (collection of the artist, 1988)

Harris’s self-portraits are redemptive and liberatory in their focus on the self. They challenge standard discourse on identity and subjectivity to present a new sign of black power and liberation. Because his photographs expose gender as constructed and performed, they also, in the process, subvert phallocentrism and compulsory heterosexuality.

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Steinbock, Eliza, , . Generative Negatives: Del LaGrace Volcano’s Herm Body Photographs
2014, Transgender Studies Quarterly 1(4): 539-551.
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Summary: In conventional film photography, negatives are used in the darkroom to produce positive images, but in the outmoded medium Polaroid 665 the positive image is used to make a unique negative that can then be employed to make positive prints in the future. This generativity of the Polaroid 665 negative is used by the artist to mirror the complexity of feelings regarding intersex bodies. The series shows how negative affect can be productive and political, even when it appears to suspend agency.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, as well as empowerment and art’s role in power relations in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Del LaGrace Volcano, Herm Body (2011- )

Self-portraits which clearly reference the work of John Coplans and reflect on Volcano’s midlife embodiment changed by hormones, age, and weight. The title draws attention to the materiality of its subject, insisting that we receive the body as ‘herm’ – a word Volcano uses to name intersex history and claim trans embodiment.

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Strother, Z.S., , . “A Photograph Steals the Soul”: The History of an Idea
2013, in: John Peffer and Elisabeth L. Cameron (eds.), Portraiture & Photography in Africa, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, pp. 177-212.
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Summary: Traces the origins of, and eventually challenges, the idea that many people in non-industrialized countries refused to have their photographic portrait taken due to the belief that it would steal their soul. Investigates and refutes the evidence provided by Richard Andree, James Napier, James G. Frazer. With references to C.S. Peirce, Rosalind Krauss, Susan Sontag.

Comment: Useful in aesthetics classes discussing portraiture, depiction and representation, as well as social and political philosophy classes focused on racial and cultural stereotyping.

Artworks to use with this text:

Antoine Freitas, self-portrait with handmade box camera in Bena Mulumba, Kasaï Province (1939)

A masterpiece of composition, showing the photographer at work, surrounded by children and women who would normally be kept away from recognized sorcerers (thereby demonstrating that the photographer was not considered an evil soul-stealing sorcerer).

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