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Portraiture: Representing Identity


Portraiture has evolved from a static and posed genre to a fluid and interpretive one. Once the preserve of the wealthy and powerful, today’s portraits contest tradition by depicting subjects whose lives and identities are representative of the common rather than the exceptional, and/or that challenge convention. Portraiture echoes the very medium in which this exhibition is presented; Collection X is representative of the democratization of both the web and the space of the museum. By drawing on images from the AGO and from the public, this exhibition highlights changes in portraiture through similar developments in the way that portraits are presented to the public.

How would you choose to represent yourself in an artwork? What are the most distinguishing characteristics of your identity? How would you feature these in a painting, sculpture, multimedia, drama, or dance piece?

Use the links to the right to browse this presentation.


Meghan Elizabeth Williams

Famous to Anonymous

From named and prominent to anonymous and everyday, portraiture has changed immensely.

Defining Relationships

Portraits can capture and reflect a variety of relationships as well as our solitary selves.

Internal and External Reality

Traditionally representative of people's status and accomplishments, portraits also go beyond staging to represent the darker side of our realities.

Observer and Observed

Acceptable representation has expanded, but who is portrayed and how they are pictured is often tied to problematic issues of identity.

Last modified on April 15, 2013