Men in Art Portraiture
Brushstrokes, poses and colour reveal a deeper story about the characters and charm of each man.
A Kabuki actor masquerades as a samurai, a formal image of composer Franz Schubert is cast as a brooding young man, and a portrait of Tamati Waka Nene, a Maori chief who fought as a British ally, is made even more distinct by his traditional tā moko facial tattoos. A crystalline image of the 16th-century Emperor Muhammad Akbar is meticulously poised, while British painter William Rothenstein SELF-PORTRAIT is incisive and pensive.
Vincent van Gogh chose to depict the blue-collar workers around him with his portraits of the Roulin family from 1888. The postman JOSEPH Roulin is at once stiff and serious, gazing on respectably, while also exploding into a riot of Post-Impressionist color and pattern. His beard is like a series of cascading fireworks. The younger Armand Roulin, meanwhile, is slightly disheveled, his shocking yellow coat rakishly unbuttoned.
The act of depiction can also be an act of rebellion. By representing different bodies and fashions, the artists here break down our standard definitions of beauty and gender. There’s always something left to be revealed, just like the expression of Antonello da Messina’s portrait of a young man from 1470. His twist of a smile precedes the Mona Lisa’s, but it’s just as luminous and charming. We feel we know him, even half a millennium later. —Kyle Chayka