Girl Reporter, 24 x 18. Acrylic, 2008
Kings Musketeer, 20 x 16, Acrylic, 2010
Miss Rockford of 2020, 36 x 24, Acrylic, 2005
The generic portrait is halfway between the individual portrait and the picture of the unidentified person; it is a depiction of someone who represents or personifies a class, a type, a specific variety of humanity. It can be of a person exemplifying a certain period, place or ethnicity. It can epitomize a person pursuing a particularly activity or profession. I have, over the years, painted several types of generic portraits, but except for fashion plates and period costume illustrations, I have never compiled a series or built up a collection. (The idea of doing so has some merit.) With the generic portrait the artist is spared the necessity of capturing an individual likeness, which can doom the artwork to failure if it is incompletely or unconvincingly accomplished. But, without a model to reference and with a total reliance upon the imagination, there can be other problems. For instance, the face has to look good and at the same time represent what it's supposed to -- not always so simple to achieve. One can, of course, choose a model without the obligation to follow it religiously, and I have done this several times. There have been times as well when I have set out to paint a celebrity portrait and having fallen short of a modicum of verisimilitude, turned it into a generic portrait -- who's to know?
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