Profiling Portraits: The Most Custom of All Custom Art-Portraits, Can Present a Variety of Challenges to Artists and Art Dealers

By Hagan, Debbie | Art Business News, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Profiling Portraits: The Most Custom of All Custom Art-Portraits, Can Present a Variety of Challenges to Artists and Art Dealers


Hagan, Debbie, Art Business News


Five-year-old Heather Ries hid in her closet. Her mother, Susanna, gently explained that if she stayed in there, her portrait might not look so nice. The reluctant Heather emerged, and portrait artist Dale Tremblay Begley sat beside her on her SpongeBob coverlet, where they played with stuffed animals. By the time Begley brought out her camera again, Heather didn't mind. In fact, she gazed curiously at it--a look so true to Heather that Begley knew she had to include it in the girl's portrait.

"The portrait is one of the most curious art forms," Henri Matisse once said. "It demands special qualities in the artist, and an almost total kinship with the model.

"Just being able to draw isn't enough," says Begley of Pelham, NH, who considers portraits the "bread and butter" of her art business. "Half of the battle is dealing with the people." While she loves working with the kids, pets and families, the work involves time and patience. Taking pictures (studies for the portrait) may last two hours, and a good part of that time is spent getting to know the subject and making him or her feel comfortable.

Some artists work well with children--others don't. Some artists create good color portraits out of old black and white photographs. Others would not consider working from a photograph. Some artists require lengthy sittings--10 to 15 or more. Some take total control over the project and will tell the client what clothes to wear.

For those artists and art dealers who are patient and enjoy working with people, commissioned portraits can provide a good, steady income. Customers will pay anywhere from $500 to $60,000 for one good portrait. Price depends on size, complexity, details, materials, reputation of the artist and the number of people and/or pets in it.

The Buyers

"Each painting tells a story," says Richard Whitney, a portrait artist whose studio is in Stoddard, NH. "The game is to make them look alive and natural."

Portrait buyers generally fall into two groups. First there are the families, grandparents and pet owners. They commission paintings to preserve a memory, continue a family tradition, to memorialize a loved one who has passed on or to add something personal to their art collection. Portraits can serve as holiday, birthday and anniversary gifts.

The second is a professional purchase, coming from universities, corporations, and political organizations. They use portraits to honor long-term or exceptional service, often adding to a historic collection displayed in the dining room, boardroom or office.

Sarah Beard Buckley, in Cape Elizabeth, ME, serves both kinds of customers as director and founder of Northeast Portraiture, a business that exists to specifically match buyers with artists. She represents 30 to 35 portrait painters. "I want to make sure the client gets the right artist and that everything goes well," says Buckley.

"The majority of my clients are university presidents," she continues. Among Buckley's current subjects are Charles Vest, former president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Kim B. Clark, former dean of faculty at Harvard Business School; and John & Frances Loeb, major donors to Harvard University.

Some business and academic sitters are not so eager to have their portraits made. "The hardest is the person who is in the process of doing his job and is impatient to have [his portrait] done and has no interest in how it happens," says Jerry Weiss of Old Lyme, CT, who is among Buckley's artists.

"I enjoy spending three or four days with people who have knowledge in their field, and I would like to think it's vice versa. I find great enjoyment in these situations," Weiss adds. Once the time is up, the portrait becomes not just a painting in a collection, but a memory of personal time shared.

How It's Done

Today, most portrait artists work from photographic studies rather than long, drawn-out sittings. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Profiling Portraits: The Most Custom of All Custom Art-Portraits, Can Present a Variety of Challenges to Artists and Art Dealers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.