Engaging Faces

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  • Title: Engaging Faces: The Persistence of Traditional Portrait Painting Practices in a “Post-digital” Age
  • Author(s): Andrew Collis, Colin Rosewell, Richard Morris
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Image
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Image
  • Keywords: Portraiture, Painting
  • Volume: 8
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2154-8560 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2154-8579 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2154-8560/CGP/v08i04/91-96
  • Citation: Collis, Andrew, Colin Rosewell, and Richard Morris. 2018. "Engaging Faces: The Persistence of Traditional Portrait Painting Practices in a “Post-digital” Age." The International Journal of the Image 8 (4): 91-96. doi:10.18848/2154-8560/CGP/v08i04/91-96.
  • Extent: 6 pages


In the current global climate of contemporary art discourse, the term “post-digital” variously draws attention to the rapidly changing relationship between digital technologies, human beings, and art forms, an attitude that essentially concerns itself more with “being human” than with “being digital.” While the proliferation of digital imagery—particularly depicting the human face—has become commonplace and ubiquitous to the point of becoming somewhat unremarkable, portrait painting and public demand to see the painted portrait thrive vehemently today. Significantly, and perhaps surprisingly, is the fact that the majority of portrait-painting galleries and portrait-painting prizes uphold the traditional notion that the painted portrait be painted from life; that there must be some personal human encounter between artist and sitter either during or throughout the creation of the work. This article explores the significance of the “painting from life” clause as stipulated by specific gallery and competition stakeholders and its viability as an artistic convention in a period of advanced technological opportunities. It will be shown that such a clause may in fact embody important humanising elements that make it an extremely valuable means of representation in a “post-digital” age.