Portrait drawings are intimate works by their very nature, as they allow us to see an individual’s external and internal qualities through the eyes of another. For this reason, exceptional portraits will fire our imaginations and take on lives of their own, making them highly interesting additions to any home or work-space. Saatchi art has a wide selection of such works to choose from, from expressionistic to photo realistic portrait drawings. Whatever your preference, we’re confident that you’ll find the perfect work among our portrait drawings for sale by some of the most talented emerging artists from around the world.
Humans have been employing drawing as a means of artistic expression for at least the past 40,000 years. Perhaps most notably, the cave drawings of Lascaux and elsewhere in Europe lend us evidence of our innate tendencies towards putting down onto paper and stone our artistic visions. Artists have long been drawn to the medium of drawing as a means of studying human facial expressions and anatomy. During the 4th century, portraiture was concerned with an idealised symbol of a person; by the Middle Ages, true representations of a person became popular. The increase in the availability of paper in the 14th century led to a greater output of drawings by artists. The Renaissance period saw a revived interest in portraiture due to the rising fascination with the natural world and Greco-Roman culture, most notably by Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Durer. During the subsequent Baroque and Rococo periods, portraits were viewed as records of an individual’s status in society. The Impressionist artists, most notably Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, created numerous drawings of the bourgeois and lower classes. The 20th century saw a variety of artists experimenting with portrait drawings, such as Egon Schiele who created intense drawings of figures.
An artist will create a portrait drawing with a variety of media, including dry media such as graphite, charcoal, pastel, conte crayon, pastel, and fluid solvents such as marker, pen, and ink. Pen and ink drawings can be created through the technique of hatching, which is where the artist creates groups of parallel lines. Cross-hatching uses hatching in two or more different directions in order to create a darker tone. Broken hatching can be used in order to create light tones. Stippling refers to using dots to produce tone and texture. Drawings produced with dry media often use similar techniques. In order to create a portrait, the artist must study their subject at great length in order to accurately capture their facial features and expression. The subject can be depicted full or half length, head and shoulders, or just the head. The subject can be clothed, nude, standing, sitting, or astride a horse. Sometimes a portrait features an individual, a couple, family, or a large group. Portrait drawing requires the artist to have a mastery over human anatomy.
Leonardo da Vinci was a prolific draftsman, and created many famous portrait drawings and preliminary studies throughout his artistic career. He created many studies for paintings, some of which have been identified as preliminary studies for his famous works such as The Last Supper and The Virgin of the Rocks. His famous drawings include the Vitruvian Man, and a large drawing in black chalk of The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist. He uses the sfumato technique in order to create the shading in this particular work. Albrecht Durer is another famous draftsman who is notable for his drawings, portraiture and self-portraiture work. He experimented with human proportions, and created a large number of preparatory drawings, many of which survive, including Praying Hands, a study for an apostle in the Heller altarpiece. Edgar Degas is well known for his color portrait drawings of ballet dancers, members of the Parisian lower class, and his friends beautifully rendered in pastels, such as Woman Bathing in a Shallow Tub and Mary Cassatt at the Louvre. Other famous draftsmen include Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Amedeo Modigliani, Egon Schiele, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and most contemporaneously Chuck Close, who is well known for his photo realistic portrait drawings.