Examining Portraits

Portraits can describe a person’s physical likeness, status, personality, and/or interests. This chapter presents the range of ways artists represent people.

Discover a rare double-sided portrait by Leonardo da Vinci. Rich and powerful aristocrats and royalty had their portraits painted by the French artist Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, and the emperor Napoleon posed for Jacques-Louis David. Introspective and enigmatic, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin painted self-portraits that express their personal styles, while Chuck Close creates large-scale portraits with surprising and innovative techniques.

As you examine the works in this chapter, consider what portraits reveal about the sitter and what they tell us about the artist.

Leonardo da Vinci

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Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun and Jacques-Louis David
1755–1851 (Vigée Le Brun); 1748–1825 (David)

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Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin
1853–1890 (Van Gogh); 1848–1903 (Gauguin)
Dutch (van Gogh); French (Gauguin)

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Chuck Close
born 1940

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Paperback editions of An Eye for Art are available for purchase.


Studying Nature

Questioning Traditions

Playing with Space


Download PDFs:

Edgar Degas (8MB)

Alexander Calder (6MB)

Dan Flavin (3MB)

Martin Puryear (6MB)