Portraiture and the Conversation Piece

Much painting had been done in England by a handful of native artists well into the eighteenth century, although it was foreign artists that had dominated the market for paintings.British artists could not form a style that was original and one they could call their own, thus they were seldom admired.In the early eighteenth century British aristocrats usually employed foreign artists to do their portraits.It was not until William Hogarth, local artwork would be noticed.He promoted distinct British traditions to his artwork and became thefirst native artist to be known on an international scale.He paved the way for future artists that would come to follow him.By the mid-eighteenth century it became fashionable to have paintings done by British artists, instead of foreign painters.It was not only popular, it showed that the owner of the painting had taste.Hogarth was not only noted for his portraiture, but was responsible for popularising a new form of portraiture called the conversion piece.The conversation piece was a step back from the formal portraiture, but gained widespread interest all over England.In this essay I would like to examine the two forms of artwork that were most popular during the eighteenth century, portraiture and the conversation piece.To observe the two forms a bit closer I will compare two pieces by a well-known British painter, Thomas Gainsborough, one of a portraiture and one of a conversation piece.
Let's begin by taking a closer look at portraiture.What is portraiture?According to Webster's Dictionary, a portrait can be defined as the likeness of a person, painted, drawn or engraved; commonly, a representation of the human face painted from real life.What this is saying is that portraitures are paintings or drawings of the human figure.During the eighteenth century only the upper class could have their portraits done by the most prestigious artists, these were usual…

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