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Portraits in Painting and Photography

Cynthia Freeland
Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition
Vol. 135, No. 1, Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Oberlin Colloquium in Philosophy: Aesthetics (Aug., 2007), pp. 95-109
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40208798
Page Count: 15
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Portraits in Painting and Photography
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Abstract

This article addresses the portrait as a philosophical form of art. Portraits seek to render the subjective objectively visible. In portraiture two fundamental aims come into conflict: the revelatory aim of faithfulness to the subject, and the creative aim of artistic expression. In the first part of my paper, studying works by Rembrandt, I develop a typology of four different things that can be meant when speaking of an image's power to show a person: accuracy, testimony of presence, emotional characterization, or revelation of the essential "air" (to use Roland Barthes' term). In the second half of my paper this typology is applied to examples from painting and photography to explore how the two media might differ. I argue that, despite photography's alleged' realism' and 'transparency,' it allows for artistic portraiture and presents the same basic conflict between portraiture's two aims, the revelatory and the expressive.

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