The Face : portrait and self- portrait

At first I would like to remember some of the artists I have already written about during the course, whose work become even more relevant now when embarking upon the study of the face:

Ritchelly Oliveira‘s photographically precise portraits , suddenly with some parts like the clothing left unfinished and with surreal elements like birds swirling around the heads, or leaves, bubbles, a line of paint covering some part. I am always fascinated by the balance between finished- unfinished and realism-fantasy.


Tina Berning’s portraits of women, in a quick sketchy way in different media but always with interesting expressive mark-making, on various random paper- also something that attracts me.


Picasso’s portraits, that are so very different over the course of his life. I wrote a post about this after visiting the exhibition in the National portrait Gallery in London.


Käthe Kollwitz captivating charcoal portraits and self- portraits, expressing so much emotion and humanity. One of her most famous self- portraits also shows the unfinished- finished with the face in detail and then her arm continuing into a rough scribble. I wrote a post about this artist during the Foundation course. Taking another look at her portraits makes me want to explore the use of charcoal more in depth.


As part of the research suggested by the course, I will take a look at the portraits of Graham Little compared to the ones of Elisabeth Peyton.

GRAHAM LITTLE  (b. 1972)

Although Graham Little’s portraits shows women in an interior environment and usually busying themselves with some task, they are very calm and quiet. The colours are subtle, the expressions gentle, the movements seem slow. There is a very quiet atmosphere in all of these gouache and coloured pencil works on paper. There is also an oddly disturbing sense of unreality in the grey glow of the women and the too perfect, stylized poses and detailed surroundings.

Graham little, . 2017. Alison Jacques Gallery. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from:


Elisabeth Peyton is panting on wood panels that she first covers with many layers of gesso, sanding in between so that the surface becomes like glass and allows her to use the paint with bold quick strokes that remain clearly visible. She paints in large blocks of colour, very different from the subtle tones of Graham Little above.

The left painting is a self -portrait. Otherwise Elisabeth Peyton paints artists, musicians and in any case studies and expresses the personality of her models through the painting- also very different from the neutral personality-devoid models of Graham Little’s work.

Gladstonegallerycom. 2017. Gladstonegallerycom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from:

Gagosiancom. 2017. Gagosiancom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from:

JUUL KRAIJER  (b. 1970)

The Dutch artist Juul Kraijer draws the “everywoman” in portraits or nudes- the female form of being human, without personality- an archetype- naked and without eyebrows.

She uses charcoal, and rarely ink , little detail, basic media. Her drawings often have a surreal element – swarms of insects, flames, letters emerging from the faces or bodies.

Again I am rather fascinated by these surrealist elements appearing and would like to experiment with various patterns and the face in my own drawings. I am also curious about this exploring of the face without personality.

Juul kraijer. 2017. Juulkraijercom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from:



I have become slightly obsessed with the portraits of Alberto Giacometti. I saw some of his paintings in the Stuttgart Staatsgallery and then came across them again while researching drawing with a limited palette, and now I have been watching several biographies about his art.

Giacometti was constantly drawing since early childhood and he says in an interview that everything is drawing for him, sculpture is just drawing in a different media. After a few years exploring surrealist art, he returns to reality and models, and these are the works that interest me the most. He is constantly drawing and painting the same motives and models over and over and also drawing and painting over and over the same canvas , on the search for a truth that is just evading.

Giacometti came from a small Swiss- Italian village where he returned regularly, but chose to mainly live and work in a small very simple studio in Paris that is pictured in many of his paintings- you can see the canvases in the background of the portraits, and stillife of bottles and apples in his studio was a recurring theme.

Giacometti used the same model again and again- his wife Anette, his mother, his lover Caroline, his friend the Japanese philisopher Isaku Yanaihara, so there are many many works of these same models.

The model had to be very still. Giacometti did not want to express any emotion, he was searching for some deeper human universal qualities. He always started with the eyes- the eyes he said- are made of a whole other material than the rest, it is precise like an optical instrument. From there he found lines and frames and scribbles his dark strong marks before adding colours. This goes on in layers upon layers, but with parts left untouched. I think this is part of what fascinates me. This search that doesn’t stop til all the colors blend in a grey , and yet, some parts left untouched and marks from previous forms left there as well. A contrast between the stillness of the model too and the movement and chaos of the marks and work of the artist.

There is mostly a lighter halo around the head, or as in the last one, a dark cloud. Giacometti explained this as the form of the person always surpassing the person.

Giacomettis many many sculptures of an elongated female figure standing still and a male figure walking is what I knew before discovering his portraits:

The figures become longer and thinner towards disappearing. They are always alone, even placed in large groups, they will have no interaction between them whatsoever and never meet. The women are immobile, only to be looked at and to return that look- the men in action, like himself, constantly doing in front of the immobile model.

Fondation-giacomettifr. 2017. Fondation-giacomettifr. [Online]. [1 February 2017]. Available from:

MARK MANDERS (b. 1968)

I came across the work of the Dutch artist Mark Manders while struggling with vanishing point and perspective, as he has created various drawings around this theme, like these two that I find really funny :

He has also repeatedly exhibited a larger body of work including drawings and installations named “Self portrait through a building”. I found this rather fascinating as it is so very remote from how I could ever express a self- portrait:


Markmandersorg. 2017. Markmandersorg. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from:


The Indonesian artist Veri Apriyatno draws very large scale detailed multiple self-portraits in pencil. He appears several times in different dynamic poses within each drawing. He explains in an interview in the Daily Mail that he explores who he is by identifying his emotions such as alienation, loneliness and emptiness, emotions that change the whole time.

I came across this artist while researching the moving figure- and the dynamic movement in the drawings is what attracts me the most. I like the idea of combining several self-portraits with varying emotions into the same drawing and am thinking of how to explore this idea.



Looking at contemporary portrait artists, I discovered a surprising number of portraits that appear to be melting, or flowing away from the canvas- where the portrait is smeared almost to a point of being unrecognizable.

This reminds me of some works by Francis Bacon, and although they create an alarming sense of anguish or fear, I find this movement rather unappealing and strange that it can gain such popularity internationally.

Pepijn Simon, Netherlands

Pepijnsimoncom. 2017. Pepijnsimoncom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from:

Norris Yim, Hong Kong:

Theartlingcom. 2017. Theartlingcom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from:

Maxim Fomenko, Germany:

Fomenkoartcom. 2017. Fomenkoartcom. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from:

EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)

I wrote quite extensively about Egon Schiele for the section on “the Nude”, so I will avoid repeating myself here- but want to take a closer look at his portraits, and especially self- portraits.

Egon Schiele painted and drew an incredible number of self- portraits , revealing  the same intensity of emotion as his other works, raw, anguished, intensely sexual, angry, or just disdainful, self confident. The mark making and cropping mirrors this. There is nothing idealized or embellished, and this sense of raw honesty makes me just admire Egon Schieles portraits .

Leopoldmuseumorg. 2017. Leopoldmuseumorg. [Online]. [17 April 2017]. Available from:



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