What is a portrait? By definition, it is a painting, photograph, or other likeness of a person, especially one showing the face. The artist, by means of capturing the image of a person on canvas or in a photograph, provides that sitter with a measure of immortality. In the middle of the twentieth century, artists moved away from the notion that the careful rendering of facial features was the most desirable aspect of a portrait, or that it described the subject most accurately. The artist arrived at an image most suitable to the individual by taking into consideration the mood, attitude and body language over a period of time and during differing circumstances.

For as long as artists have been painting portraits of people, they have been using self-portraits as vehicles for psychological examination. Artists have been painting themselves as readily available expressive models when no others existed or could be afforded. The unique way these artists saw themselves and the many stylistic approaches they chose to interpret their individual personalities are what give the portrait its vitality. Whether the portraits included are full length, three-quarter length or head and shoulders, it is the face that draws our attention. This is unsurprising. After all, it is the face that defines us. It is the face that makes each person appear unique and separate and special.

Portraiture, then, is more than the recording of appearance. It is always more than simply an image, more than merely oil on canvas or charcoal on paper. Somehow it does more than just show the subject. Part of the experience of looking at a portrait is a sense of recognition, identification with the subject or a confirmation of our own feelings. The viewer can establish a relationship or rapport with the subject that is based—above all else—on a response to the face itself. For a portrait to succeed it needs to be more than a likeness. In some works an intimate relationship and tender emotion is exposed between sitter and artist. This relationship guides every mark of the brush, pencil or etching needle.