Portrayal and the Search for Identity
written by Marcia Pointon
New South | ISBN 9781780230412
Hardback – 240 pages
Member’s price: $58.50
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We are surrounded by portraits: from the cipher-like portrait of a queen on a bank note to security pass photos; from images of politicians in the media to Facebook; from galleries exhibiting Titian or Leonardo to contemporary art featuring the self-image, as with Jeff Koons or Cindy Sherman. In Antiquity portraiture was of major importance in the exercise of power. Today it remains not only a part of everyday life but also a crucial way for artists to define themselves in relation to their environment and their contemporaries. In Portrayal and the Search for Identity, Marcia Pointon investigates how we view and understand portraiture as a genre, and how portraits function as artworks within social and political networks. Likeness is never a straightforward matter as we rarely have the subject of a portrait as a point of comparison. Featuring familiar canonical portraits works as well as little-known works, Portrayal seeks to unsettle notions of portraiture as an art of convention, a reassuring reflection of social realities. Readers are instead invited to consider how identity is produced pictorially, and where likeness is registered apart from in a face. In exploring these issues, the author addresses wide-ranging problems such as the construction of masculinity in dress, representations of slaves, and self-portraiture in relation to mortality.