Contemporary Portraits: Surrealist, Pop-Art
Contemporary Portrait Painting.

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Contemporary Portraiture


Surrealist Portraits
Pop Art Portraits
Photorealist Portraits

Further Resources

• For the world's best portraitists, see: Best Portrait Artists.
• For the greatest portraits, see: Greatest Portrait Paintings.
• For modern painters, see: 20th Century Portrait Artists.
• See also: Expressionist Portraits and Impressionist Portraits.
• For earlier works, see: 19th-Century Portraits.


Self Portrait with Cat & Monkey (1940)
HRH Research Center, Austin.
A typical surrealist/symbolist portrait
by the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Portrait Of Pope Innocent X (1950)
one of several contemporary
surrealist portraits by Francis Bacon.

Marilyn (1967) by Pop-Artist
Andy Warhol. A typical example of
Andy Warhol's Pop art of the 60s.

Drowning Girl (1963) by Pop-Artist
Roy Lichtenstein.

Young Shopper (1973)
Saatchi Gallery, London.
A hyper-realistic sculpture portrait
by Duane Hanson.

Surrealist Portraits

Surrealism was an important avant-garde fine art movement of the inter-war years. Andre Breton, its founder, declared that its aim was to create a 'super-reality' (surrealisme) by combining the conscious (visual and intellectual imagination) with the unconscious (dreams as well as random or chance-like images [frottage]). Other notable Surrealists include: the Spanish artists Salvador Dali and Joan Miro, the Belgian painter Rene Magritte, the Mexican Frida Kahlo, and the extraordinary Irish artist Francis Bacon. Although most of the movement's artworks defy all traditional descriptions, more famous examples of what one might call Surrealist "portrait art" are: the distorted biomorphic form Woman (1934) by Joan Miro - one of his peintures sauvages; Dali's grotesquely dismembered figure in his masterpiece Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (1936); and Francis Bacon's nightmarish Portrait of Pope Innocent X. For an explanation of some of the great 20th century portrait paintings, see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).

For a guide to the different forms
of fine and applied arts,
please see: TYPES OF ART.


Pop-Art Portraits

Pop Art was a modern art movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which grew up in New York and London. Largely eschewing traditional fine art painting, with its emphasis on precise figure drawing, the movement's aim was to make art engage with the real world, by utilizing modern forms of printmaking, and popular iconography.

As a self-styled democratic or 'popular' art form, its prints and other artworks comprised easily recognizable mass-market images. In short, it tried to make the everyday into something epic.

The leading figure of the Pop Art school was the American avant-garde printmaker Andy Warhol, whose New York 'factory' produced a number of celebrated Pop Art portrait images.

These portraits, which became world-famous iconic images of the 1960s, included works like: Twenty Marilyns [silk screen] (1962), Triple Elvis [silk screen and aluminium paint] (1962), Jacqueline Kennedy No 3 (1965), Liz (1964-5), Marilyn (1967), Mao-Tse-Tung (1973), as well as several self-portraits.

Other Pop-Art portraitists included Wayne Thiebaud, and Ed Ruscha, as well as Roy Lichtenstein the comic strip style artist. Lichtenstein's tight control of black outline, Ben Day dot technique and meticulous attention to detail can be seen in portraits like: Drowning Girl [oil on canvas] (1963).

Note: According to an article in the London Economist, a screenprint portrait entitled Eight Elvises (1963), by Andy Warhol, was sold privately by its owner Annibale Berlingieri for a massive $100 million.

Photorealist Portraits

Photorealism, a development of Pop-Art, is a hyper-realistic art movement which originated in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. Photorealist paintings are meticulously copied photographs, the latter being projected onto a canvas by a projector, and then worked on. The term Photorealism was first used by Louis Meisel in 1968 and later in a Whitney Museum catalogue for the show: Twenty-two Realists. Notable Photorealist painters included: the self-portraitist Chuck Close, as well as Richard Estes, Malcolm Morley, Ralph Goings, and Robert Cottingham. Photorealist sculptors - who utilized a variety of materials, such as hair, glass eyes, real clothing and accessories - include: Duane Hanson (1925-96), John de Andrea (b.1941), and Carole Feuerman (b.1945). Photorealist pictures echo the precise exactitude of portraits, genre-works and still lifes from the Dutch Realist school, but arguably lack life. Photorealism declined somewhat after the 1970s as photography and video became accepted art forms.

The next article covers Portrait Art by other 20th Century Artists.

• See also: Portraits by Picasso.
• For details of landscape and portraiture in Ireland, see: Irish Portrait Artists.
• For more about self-portraiture, see: Homepage.

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