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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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Freeland, Cynthia, , . Portraits in Painting and Photography
2007, Philosophical Studies 135(1): 95-109.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

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, , . 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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