Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday Salon: 10 Male Portraits I Would Love to Own

'Portrait of a Young Man' -  Flemish Master Peter Paul Rubens 1577 - 1640

What I love about this painting, besides the flawless technique, is the eyes. That look in those eyes make the sitter come alive even after so many centuries. It's a very modern-seeming look.

Self-portrait by American painter Alexander Stern 1904 - 1994

When I first saw this painting I thought, aha! that's Saul Panzer in the flesh. (For the uninitiated, Saul is the best operative in NYC according to Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe.) The more I look at this though, the more I like the painting just for itself. It speaks volumes about the way certain men looked in the early part of the twentieth century. This has the look of the Depression era all over it.

'Study of a Young Man' by American ex-pat John Singer Sargent 1856 - 1925

Simply gorgeous, gorgeous work by a master of the brush stroke. This almost seems done extemporaneously and possibly it was. If you look closely you can see the mastery of color and technique which absolutely dazzles. Of course, Sargent had an eye for handsome young men and I, for one, am happy to view the result.

Self Portrait by Scottish contemporary painter John Byrne

I love the granite attitude and craggy look of this guy. Note the sweetly sculpted hair atop the otherwise grizzly face with its 'yeah, what about it?' attitude. Check out his website for other attitudes and paintings.

Portrait of Pieter van den Broecke by Dutch Master Franz Hals 1582 - 1666

This is a repeat of a portrait I've featured before simply because it happens to be one of my very favorite paintings and I can't NOT include it on my list. I love most of all the appearance and attitude of the sitter. He is simply someone you'd want to know - the man has such a look of kindness. He seems content even with his scruffy hair.Technique-wise:  look at the  lace and that gorgeous hand, missing I believe, a pinky. I used to think it was bent under, but now I don't.

Self-portrait With the Dressing Gown 1914 by Swiss painter Felix Vallotton 1865 - 1925

Monsieur Vallotton seems a bit grumpy but he still manages to capture the attention. When I look closely at this painting I note the gorgeous work on the gown, the brushstrokes on the face and the unsparing way the painter has captured his aging countenance. I don't mind the bland simplicity at all because if you look closely you'll see quite the opposite.

Portait of the painter William Merritt Chase 1882 by American James Carroll Beckwith 1852 - 1917

Chase was an artist who effected theatrical style and obviously it suited him. I like how Beckwith captures him in all his sartorial flamboyance and makes him look imposing and even dashing. Though to my eye there is very little swagger going on.

Portrait of Jacques Cathelineau by French painter Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson 1767 - 1824

Despite the name this is the work of a male painter who was in at the beginning of the Romantic Movement and famed for his portraits of members of the Napoleonic family. This painting is apparently romanticizing elements of war and makes a dashing fellow of Monsieur Cathelineau but the truth is, I don't know that he wasn't. I like the flamboyant swagger of it. As you can tell, I'm fond of flamboyance.

Nude Study by English painter Henry Scott Tuke 1858 - 1929

I wanted to include a nude and this is one of my favorites. I love the application of paint, the many shades used in the skin tone by Tuke who had a reputation (and facility) later in life, for painting naked young men. I think men can be painted unclothed in just as decorous a fashion as women. Tuke glorified the natural male nude in a quiet simple, mind-your-manners sort of way that I find quite beautiful. None of John Singer Sargent's posed 'in your face' sort of nakedness at all. There's room for both.

Portrait of Captain Frederick Gustavus Burnaby by French painter James Tissot 1836 - 1902

You've probably seen this painting before on my blog since it remains one of my all time favorites not to be left off a list like this. Burnaby was killed at the Battle of Abu Klea in the Sudan in 1885. In this painting, Tissot captures all of the flamboyant (there's that word again) Captain Burnaby's style and physical attributes. He was very tall and imposing and that seemingly endless red stripe on his uniform lets us know it. Obviously he was also a reader as the books on his right make apparent. He also, I understand, had a lisp which I find endearing if true. On the settee behind him to the right we see the rest of his colorful uniform and the map above shows us, I believe, the depth and breadth of the English empire.


Next week it will be 10 Female Portraits, so, as I like to say, stay tuned. Obviously I'd like to post many more than ten, but let's keep it feasible. When I look at these works closely I am usually overwhelmed by the painter's technique which, because I don't paint in oils, remains a total mystery to me. That's part of the process I suppose - being overwhelmed by technique. I don't want to know too much, I just want to know enough to understand that I am looking at the work of genius. These are very definitely an amateur's golly-gee-whiz comments by the way, I'm just a loving fan.


  1. They are all very interesting looking men, Yvette,and masterfully painted.

    I've always wondered why ruffled collars, as seen in the first painting, were so popular in their day? They look quite uncomfortable to wear.

  2. I like your choices, for the reasons you've chosen them. It's interesting that a portrait can appeal to us on so many levels — an attraction to eyes, beautiful skin tone, a smile, a gesture and even clothing. It's great to find a portrait where it all works together!

    I like Pat's question — I've wondered the very same thing. One has to admit that, however uncomfortable, the ruffs certainly framed the face beautifully.

  3. These are beautiful. I'm partial to Theodore Gericault's portrait of Eugene Delacroix.

  4. Thanks, Pat. I think the white collars and lace and all - besides being sartorially splendid - have something to do with hiding dandruff. I swear I read that someplace but don't quote me. :)

  5. It's all about the dandruff, Mark. I imagine in those days with nobody bathing or washing regularly....Well, that's what I read anyway. Could be. :)

  6. Just looked that one up, Naomi. Very hypnotic. Oh there are so many portraits I could have posted instead but these ten will do for now. :)

  7. I'm in love with a few of them and understand why you would want them hanging on your walls.

  8. Some grand portraits here, Yvette. I find doing portraits the most challenging of all art forms. I usually don't draw from memory, unless it's landscape, though I wouldn't be able to draw a portrait (or even just a face) even from a picture.

  9. Re the ruffled: most fashion, in most eras, is uncomfortable. Think of how awful it must have been to wear a tightly-laced corset all day, but women did for centuries. I work in a high school where the fashion for boys is baggy, saggy pants. Although they are yelled at all day to pull up their pants and although they usually have to walk with one hand keeping their pants up, do you think it ever occurs to them to say, "To heck with this, I'll wear a belt"? No way--that's fashion.

  10. They are wonderful, Ryan. Of course if I owned a Rubens, I'd be thinking of selling it and buying a townhouse in Manhattan. Maybe.

  11. I can't do portraits I can only do an impression of the sitter. Usually though it's somebody's dog so that's okay.

    Though I have no trouble drawing my granddaughter. :)

  12. Yeah, what is it with those sagging pants, Deb? You just want to smack them over the head and yank their pants up. HA!!

    Fashion is a cruel mistress.

  13. I love the one of van den Broecke. He seems like a nice guy.

  14. Exactly, Margaret. That's the impression I got. I love that portrait.

  15. I totally agree with you, Yvette -- Frank Hals' Pieter is the guy I'd like to go out with -- he just looks like a fun, intelligent, great guy! I suppose Girodet de Roussy-Trioson's young man is the most beautiful, but I learned a long time ago that beautiful in a man does not equal quality! These are great paintings, and I wouldn't mind having one in every room!

  16. I'm with you, Becky, a man in every room....uh, well, you know what I mean. HA!

    Handsome is as handsome does. :)


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