portraits in the marketplace: snippet from LinkedIn group discussion on selling portrait painting

  • This from Alain Scialoja, who started a discussion under the heading ‘Call for portrait painters’ ….

    ‘The niche of the marketplace everyone gets depends from his/her reputation, experience, style, advertising and also on the type of commitment (full-time/part-time). Internet is a big deal but world of mouth has a key role for most of you. I wonder if this [matches] the type of collectors you get. Are your customers heterogeneous in terms of class, taste and education?

    In return, I opined (I hope not too ungraciously):

    All true, the talent/application required needs actual contact with satisfied (or at least sympathetic) customers in order to be able to work as a painter of portraits. However we are not just artisans. In my case, I find Singer Sargent’s words ‘a portrait is a painting in which there is something wrong with the mouth’ have rung ever louder in my ears and have caused me to retreat into the most challenging, yet natural idiom of trying to make portraits that are primarily (for me the artist) about the medium and technical problems posed by it – the likeness causes us all to look at portraits ‘wrong’. They must first be satisfying works of art, and the common thread of such art (great art, or as Braque would have it – my work may be bad, but at least it’s bad great art) is that inconsistency, unresolved areas and unease need to be present amongst the glorious colour, composition and brushwork. That doesn’t sound like a portrait does it, and yet I long for people to simply say ‘I like the awkwardness of your drawings in charcoal and oilbar … Make a picture of me and stumble and curse until it’s the best you can do’.

  • Jonathanellisart.wordpress.com


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