Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Portraiture: The Artist and the Subject

The new issue of International Artist magazine includes a portrait of Mrs. Zimmerman by Rose Frantzen, along with the following commentary by the artist:

“Grace Zimmerman is the subject of my portrait. As I painted her, I discovered Mr. Zimmerman, the wife, the history teacher, county treasurer, the Iowan; and the little girl who found her father’s dead body, then was shuffled about the countryside as her widow mother strove to support her family in a world that was not ready to let women do so. Grace, at 80, is now the woman her mother was disallowed to be. She is the widowed Mrs. Zimmerman, the former teacher, now the comedian, the actor in the community theatre, the dancing lady on the cruise ship, the mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, the writer, and the active citizen. She has come into her own and is in her joy.

“I painted her in the sun dappled shade, meeting the viewer in her history teacher stance with the light reflecting off her glasses. There is a world behind this woman and she meets you with a hint of knowing a bit about it.

“When looking at portraits, if there is too much of the artist in the mix, I feel it is not a portrait of the person, but of the artist. I don’t always see this, because I get caught up in the great execution, the artist’s style, or an exquisite area of brush work,. Yet, if I have a quiet moment in front of such a painting, I might observe that only the artist is expressed. Ideally, you meet the person in the portrait, and the artist seems like a witness that allows all this to be seen. There is something in the balance of the artist’s interpretation and the subject’s qualities.”


Rose Frantzen works
International Artist magazine
Portrait of Maquoketa (book of her portraits of townsmembers)


MrCachet said...

Fabulous. Nothing more needs to be said, about the artist or the subject. I love it when there's a narrative (or in your case, a story) behind a piece of art. After all, that's what art is all about.

Tom Hart said...

There's a great deal that I really like about this painting. For one, I love the background - the distant white house and especially the man in the shade.

Personally, though, I don't minde seeing just a little more "of the artist" in a painting, and in that sense I think I disagree a little with the artist's accompanying text. Any subject is filtered through the artist, and my preference, usually, is to see just a little more (sometimes much more) of the artist's hand.

phiq said...

He's painted a person, not just a face. Much respect.

Mark Harris said...

You said it phiq. Art without a story can get boring.