Friday, September 11, 2009

a visit to the National Portrait Gallery

Last week, a visit to the National Portrait Gallery which lies behind the National Gallery overlooking Trafalgar Square in London. The annual Portrait Gallery exhibition was on and it was interesting to see the results and what modern contemporary portrait painters offer. What was interesting was a few paintings that had obviously been done from photographs (probably most had been!) and reflected the fine detail that the photographic portrait contains. In fact, one of these had taken four years to finish as egg tempura was used and the result looked more life like than a photograph since it almost glowed. Staring closely at it, a portrait of the artist's son, one found it hard not to believe it was a photograph while a much larger portrait of an elderly woman also conveyed a sense of realism that could only come from a photograph. It made me reflect a little on the relationship between art and photography and clearly, here was an example of photography allowing the artist to create something more realistic than a photograph. This beggars the question as to what might be accomplished if the photographer, having made his portrait photograph, then got to work using filters in Photoshop. By adding a little abstraction, he/she might possibly end up with an image that gives an insight into the sitter that straight photography misses!? I have done this but not pursued the matter.

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