Portraits are a way of showing a persons personality, in which the face and its expressions are predominant. A portrait can capture the likeness and mood of a person and often shows a person looking directly at the camera/ photographer in order to successfully engage the subject with the viewer.


This work is a portrait of Giovanni Di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife painted by Jan Van Eyck. The painting is not a record of their wedding, and his wife is not pregnant, as it was often thought but rather holding up her dress. Eyck often inscribed his pictures in a witty way. In this painting for instance, the mirror in the background reflects two figures in the doorway, which for its time was groundbreaking because painters didn’t do things like this at the time the painting was  created. And also holds the similarity of modern graffiti on the wall of the artists signature which both the graffiti and the reflection in the mirror are considered to be very unusual.

The Arnolfini Portrait 1434, Jan van Eyck

Image source-http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-eyck-the-arnolfini-portrait

image source-http://www.themasterpiececards.com/famous-paintings-reviewed/bid/27677/Famous-Paintings-Arnolfini-Portrait


Thomas Gainsborough Mr. and Mrs. Andrews; 1748-9

Image source-http://www.everypainterpaintshimself.com/article/gainsboroughs_mr_and_mrs_robert_andrews

Thomas Gainsborough’s Mr. and Mrs. Robert Andrews is a popular painting and has become a symbol of Britain in the eighteenth century. This image was a statement of land ownership.

  • The image is considered as being a celebration of nature and ownership of land.
  • The painting portrays that the Andrews own the land.
  • Mr. Andrews shows importance and ownership on not only the land but on Mrs. Andrews.
  • The oak tree is a symbol of Englishness representing stability and strength.
  • Mr. Andrews is nonchalantly holding his gun under his arm while Mrs. Andrews sits composed.
  • Their expressions show arrogance


The portrait as document

Edward Curtis images show a  series of images documenting the culture of Native Americans, whose home where being wiped out by an American bank. Curtis published The North American Indian between 1907 and 1930 with the intent to record Indian cultures.  portrayed the traditional customs and lifeways of eighty Indian tribes.

Image source-http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/3aa/3aa657.htm