Does Portrait Art Have to Be Beautiful?


Having created a lot of portraits, I always grapple with whether or not portraits should always be beautiful or if they should be more of a representation of reality. I would say that all cultures prize beauty, however in different parts of the world and at different times throughout history beautiful characteristics are seen differently. So beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

I’ve been studying beauty myths and how it relates to holding women back in society…and how freeing it can be to let go of the focus on looks and put your life energy into other things that matter more. For some people their looks are what their entire career is based on, for others looks seem to carry them through life. So why do so many portrait artists only paint beautiful women and good looking men?

I see the outward expression of physical beauty as an art form in itself. Regardless of body size or particular features of the body, I believe that anyone can be beautiful. I have a lot of nice clothes and love wearing make up, I see make up as just another expression of creativity. Certainly fashion is an art form in itself and if you look at fashion magazines today the fashion being walked down the runway is more art than truly practical.

I’ve seen some portrait art that is more realistic and less superficial. Realism plays a big part into whether or not a portrait will be like real life. My portraits are more of a fantastical depiction of beauty. I really respect artists that paint people as they appear in real life! And it is disheartening that more women don’t paint women of all shapes, colors and sizes. As a body positivity lover it would be a beautiful day when portrait art was more representational of all the different forms of beauty.

So what do you think? Should portraits be beautiful? I for one can see the value in both realistic representations and a more fantastical approach to portrait art. I guess it is just a matter of opinion.

ArtworkKathryn Sturges