For centuries, portrait painting has been a hugely popular genre of art. Most painters have dabbled in portrait painting at some point in their careers, with a few going on to create some of the most famous portrait paintings ever.
Despite its popularity, portrait painting is one of the most difficult genres in the art world to master. We’ll look at 15 of the most famous portrait artists of all time, as well as their classic and still-loved works, in the gallery below.
While learning about various portrait paintings, you can also get oil paintings for sale from various online art galleries.
What Are Portrait Paintings and How Do They Work?
Portraiture is the most common genre in painting, and most painters have attempted it at some point. The term “portrait painting” evolved to precisely characterize both the individual has shown and the actual painting. It is defined as a painting technique meant to represent a specific human subject. As this age-old style has defined itself via the portrayal of others, a large and comprehensive collection of famous art portraits has accumulated over time, with contributions from a variety of notable painters.
Portraiture is usually regarded as the most difficult style of painting, as it necessitates a keen sharpness for depicting the human figure in the most minute detail. In general, portrait artists strive to capture an exact portrayal of their subject while stressing their physical, mental, and even spiritual aspects in a commendable manner.
Famous Portrait Paintings
The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci at the beginning of the 16th century. It is arguably the most renowned portrait ever created as well as the most instantly recognized artwork. For millennia, both the technical qualities of the painting and the real subject have captivated onlookers and piqued their attention.
Despite its reputation as the greatest work of art ever created, some art historians believe the Mona Lisa is “overrated.” This is primarily due to her diminutive stature, with some speculating that da Vinci left the painting incomplete due to her lack of brows. The Mona Lisa became the most viewed, written about, and parodied work of art in the world only after it was stolen in 1911. The Mona Lisa broke the Guinness World Record for being insured for $100 million in 2016, and it is now worth around $870 million in 2021.
Given that the Renaissance artist was famed for creating portraits entirely out of fruits, vegetables, and plants, it’s impossible not to recognize Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s painting technique. Arcimboldo was known for his humorous portraits, in which he was able to precisely capture his subjects by employing a variety of things. The Roman god of metamorphoses in nature and life, Vertumnus, was created to represent the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.
Despite Arcimboldo’s whimsical approach to portraiture, Vertumnus is a very exact work. Here, each element of the Emperor’s expressive face is represented by a different food or plant. While the iconic painting may appear ludicrous at first glance, it is clear that Arcimboldo put a lot of attention into it, since even the individual teeth can be seen.
The Milkmaid was painted by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. He was one of the great masters of the Dutch Golden Age. It is also known as “The Kitchen Maid.” The Milkmaid stood out among Vermeer’s other works. This is because it depicted a simple and domestic scenario of a kitchen maid pouring milk from a jug. This was due to the fact that it was the first time he picked an elderly woman as his subject. This was rather the affluent and elegant young females he usually depicted.
Vermeer’s ability to represent a prosaic image from ordinary life in such honesty was lauded. The Milkmaid is considered one of his most noteworthy works. The total stillness that Vermeer managed to create is what makes The Milkmaid such an appealing painting to look at. Nothing else in the composition moves other than the lady’s full attention being drawn to the milk pouring.
Self-Portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn
Self-Portrait, painted by the legendary Rembrandt van Rijn, is another classic portrait painting. Rembrandt, known as a painter of light, claimed that he used only dark hues in his palette. This was because he believed that light should be the main topic of a painting. Rembrandt painted about 40 distinct self-portraits over his career, including Self-Portrait, which he completed at the age of 54. His pinched brow and anxious countenance were particularly notable in this image.
Rembrandt was uncompromising in his portrayal of himself in this painting. This indicates aging in the manner he painted his furrowed face. He also had huge bags beneath his eye. This showed great weariness, as well as a double chin, in addition to the crease lines on his forehead.