Contemporary Portrait Painting

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“Painting portraiture will become obsolete when the time arrives that photographers will have learned something about portraiture in its deeper sense...” —Alfred Stieglitz

Major 20th-century movements in painting generally had little interest in figuration, which had been the primary concern of painters prior to the dawn of photography. In the 1980s and '90s however, painters began to re-embrace figuration, pushing the age-old portrait genre in new directions. Elizabeth Peyton’s intimate portraits of art-world figures and celebrities explore youth, fame, and beauty, while Kehinde Wiley employs the compositional style and precision of Old Masters works to valorize his traditionally marginalized black subjects. The varied contemporary takes on portraiture reveal that, contrary to Stieglitz's assertion, the genre is still full of potential.

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