At Face Value
The Iziko South African National Gallery is exhibiting some of its extensive and diverse collection of portraiture. While most portraits focus on the face, others reveal more about the environment and social relationships, especially between an artist and a sitter. Far from being mirror reflections, portraits are complex constructions of identity that serve a range of functions – from expressing power and declaring status, to making larger statements about society and historical context. In its early days, portraiture was reserved for the wealthy, and important religious and historic figures. With technological developments in most media, especially photography, portraiture became more accessible. The snapshot and ‘selfie’ are the most contemporary forms of this art form.
Contact Andrea Lewis, Curator of Prints and Drawings
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