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Portrait Learning Guide

What can you learn from looking at a portrait painting

As you view a portrait painting, look at the list of questions below and see if you are able to determine the answers to the questions. It is always a good idea to take a notebook with you when you visit a museum. Make your experience there a learning opportunity. Learn to look and really see what is happening within a painting. Study the image and take notes.

Portraiture and Genre Paintings

  • 1. What is the focal point?
  • 2. Are the flesh-tones believable? Why? why not?
  • 3. What colors are used to create hair?
  • 4. Can you see red in the flesh other than in the cheeks? List the areas. (Blood flows to certain parts of the face and body naturally, can you identify those locations?
  • 5. Are you able to identify the anatomy of the eye?
  • 6. What color is used to represent the nostrils?
  • 7. Are folds in the clothing believable?
  • 8. How are fabrics, i.e., satin, wool, cotton, silk, etc. painted differently?
  • 9. Can you easily see the anatomy of the hands, fingers, nails, knuckles, palms, etc. Where is there more gray or more red in the hands? What color is the shadow?
  • 10. How does impressionists portraiture differ from classical academic portraiture?

If you can answer these questions, you are on your way to more fully understanding the importance of effective portrait painting