Portraiture: A Timeless Art Form

By Fariah Hasan

Portrait painting or portraiture is an art form in which a human subject is depicted, as interpreted by the artist. Portraiture is an ancient art form that has been dated back to at least ancient Egypt and has served various purposes throughout history. 

The most common motive behind portrait painting in the past was to represent significant figures at the time, like the pharaohs of Egypt or the tsars of Russia.

However, portraits were also painted to commemorate individuals close to the artist, or to simply capture a moment in time. The Fayum mummy paintings are a collection of portraits of upper class mummies from Roman Egypt painted between roughly 50 BCE and 250 CE.  These portraits were intended to in a way eternalize the dead, corroborating just how diversely portraits were utilized.

Fayum mummy portraits of Roman Egypt

The popularity of portraits faced a potential threat for the very first time following the invention and eventual development of photography. Over the past several decades, taking photographs has become readily accessible and convenient.

Nevertheless, portrait painting still remains standing as a prevalent and unrivaled art form.

Portrait painting has a unique way of encapsulating the essence of an individual and portraying more than just their appearance. It is able to depict their emotions, family background, distinctive personality and much more through just a few strokes of a paintbrush. This is why, despite the ever changing circumstances of the world, portrait painting will always remain a predominant form of art. 

Portraits drawn by FHCI grade 11 Art students


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