How can we represent the intangible in portraits?
Portraits often convey information about the identity of their subjects through tangible signs and symbols. Clothing, for example, might point to status, or props might indicate profession. Virtues or character are often represented through symbols. But some things are more difficult to represent. How, for instance, do we convey thought or the invisible sound of speech in a portrait? Kosho’s St. Kuya and Eakins’s Thinker offer two solutions.
Questions to Consider
- Both Kosho and Eakins attempt to represent the unseeable in these portraits. What solution does each arrive upon and how successful do you think each is?
- Why do you think these two artists chose to represent their subjects performing actions that have no visible form? What did they want to convey about their subjects?
- Neither of these sitters commissioned his portrait. Under what circumstances was each made and how do you think this might have impacted the artist’s representational choices?
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