Till Freiwald’s watercolor portraits push the limits of the medium and, in a painstaking process of blending layers of translucent color, the work achieves an otherworldly glow. He begins with a direct encounter with his subject and then makes small-scale sketches from the photograph. Setting those studies aside, he completes his monumental watercolors from the image in his “mind’s eye,” capturing what he has called “the main characteristics of the face.”
In his signature head-on style of portrait painting (often of fellow artists like the painter Alex Katz), Chuck Close works from a photograph as well but grids off the image and transfers the information, square by square, to a larger format. The complex process of working in the print medium, seen here in Alex/Reduction Block, has expanded the possibilities for his image-making. “Any innovation that is evident in [my] paintings,” Close has said, “is a direct result of something that happened in the course of making a print.”
In 1963 photographer was commissioned to make an official portrait of the leaders of the Daughters of the American Revolution at their annual convention in Washington, D.C. Avedon remembered well the time in 1939 when the D.A.R. refused to let the great African American soprano Marian Anderson perform in Washington’s Constitution Hall because of her race. Though only a teenager at the time, Avedon never forgot this stunning episode in American history and years later made his own revealing portrait of the assembled “Generals.”
When a group of eight American painters in 1908 exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in New York, their work, characterized by a dark palette and depictions of the grittier side of urban life, won them the nickname ”apostles of ugliness” and later the “Ashcan School.” What is not understood in these epithets is the great empathy and humanity these artists conveyed in their work. Robert Henri, who was one of “The Eight” artists and the organizer of the Macbeth show, gives us in this portrait of his wife Linda a deeply affecting image of a young woman who died following a long illness soon after this portrait was completed.