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Close-Ups

Wed Aug 17 2016 – Ongoing

Seattle Art Museum

Third Floor Galleries

The modern portrait serves an increasingly expanding range of purposes. Going far beyond traditional notions of the portrait as an accurate likeness, it has become a portal through which to reflect on contemporary issues and emotions. Artists deploy a wide variety of stylistic and technological means in going beyond appearance to depict more enigmatic features of identities. German artists in the first half of the 20th century used expressive colors and theatrical staging in portraiture to consider the anxieties of war, trauma, and displacement following two devastating world wars. Equally evocative, mid-century American painters fused an expressive painterly language of abstraction with their subjects’ countenance to evoke states of mind to dramatic effect.

The pendulum swung in the opposite direction with the arrival of Pop Art in the 1960s. The gleaming surfaces of models and stars enter the canvas and the reproductive technologies used by the film and advertising industries became an important touchstone. Portraits of personal, historical, or allegorical significance have remained a vital outlet of artistic expression throughout time and into the present day. Close Ups provides a view across time and continents to witness developments within portraiture.

Image: The Pompeii Clowns, 1950, Max Beckmann, German, 1884–1950, oil on canvas, 36 x 55 in., Gift of Sidney and Anne Gerber, 55.74, © Artist or Artist’s Estate.