Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Feel the Need?

Alphonse Mucha—Jaraslova—c 1930

Why does an artist feel the need to create a drawing or painting based on a photograph, when that photo is perfectly serviceable as a likeness of a person? Because he or she can. The nuances of differences that an artist infuses in the work interprets the subject with more 'reality' than most photographs.

The portrait painting, in oil, by Mucha of his daughter Jaraslova is very satisfying to look at, even without knowing anything about the subject. Mucha has made a personal interpretation of someone he cares deeply for, and we are privileged to see through his eyes and heart.

The photograph, below the painting, is also satisfying to look at and could stand on its own as an artistic document, but the painting communicates on a transcendent level and is what we consider 'art'.

Mucha painted many young women as subjects in similar poses over the years, yet many of them would not be considered 'portraits'. Many of those were idealized portrayals, but this painting we know immediately to be a real person. When is a portrait a portrait, and not just an image of a person?


Artman2112 said...

that an interesting question....i think it becomes a portrait when the artist's main goal is attempting to capture a very specific living personality in a piece. its not just about capturing a likness but having the picture communicate something of that person back to the artist (and then of course to other viewers as well.) all the while infusing their own vision and personality with that of the subject. does that make any sense??
this makes me think of something i read somewhere. i think it was about Dante Gabriel Rosetti. the subject of a portrait he painted was quite unhappy with the results because he said he had been painted to look like a mad laborer, which according to others was exactly what he was!

anyway i am enjoying your blog very much, keep up the good work!

Thomas Haller Buchanan said...

Thank you, I really appreciate your thoughts here, and yes, that makes perfect sense.

It's a subject I struggle with, as I try to describe my art and photography to people. I will continue this thread periodically.

Li-An said...

She was beautiful and less "straight" than the usual "Mucha's" girl.