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Portrait Drawings

Portrait drawings are any artistic representation in a traditional drawing medium that focuses on the human face and its expression. Traditionally, the illustrations were intended to educe intangible qualities of their subject, such as their mood or personality. Portrait drawings for most of art history typically illustrate biblical figures or wealthy patrons or royalty who commissioned artists to draw their likeness.

Since the majority of these works were commissioned, the artists were expected to portray their subjects in a flattering light. However, some artists such as Hans Holbein and William Hogarth stayed true to their artistic vision, often rendering subjects as they perceived them without any complimentary embellishment. The early American artist Thomas Eakins continued this tradition of unflattering portraiture, often depicting subjects, including his wife, in a straightforward manner with dour expressions and ashen skin tones.

The tradition of portrait drawing appears as vibrant today as ever before as artists such as Elizabeth Peyton evolve the timeless genre. The emotions behind facial expressions are a perennial fascination of mankind, making portraits, including the Mona Lisa, some of the most prized art objects ever produced.


Quick Facts

  • Francis Bacon, the esteemed 20th-century English artist, incorporated elements of abstraction into his portrait drawings including "Seated Woman" from 1961
  • In 2015, The Morgan Library in New York City presented an exhibition titled "Life Lines: From Dürer to Picasso." The exhibition demonstrated the diversity of aesthetic orientations and artistic approaches that have been employed in creating portraits
  • Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino’s "Head of an Apostle" drawing sold at Sotheby’s in 2012 for $47.9 million, making it the most expensive portrait ever sold at auction

Recommended Items at Auction

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JAMES MONTGOMERY FLAGG (AMERICAN, 1877-1960)
Dec 02, 10:00 AM CST
JAMES MONTGOMERY FLAGG (AMERICAN, 1877-1960)
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $300
$1504 Bids
EUGENE DODEIGNE (°1923)
Dec 09, 2:00 PM CET
EUGENE DODEIGNE (°1923)
by Bernaerts Auctioneers
Est: €500- €750
€5504 Bids
French Artist 20th Century
Nov 30, 10:00 AM CET
French Artist 20th Century
by Deutsch Auktionen
Est: €80- €0
€1104 Bids
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Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Professor Kristian Schreiner
Dec 10, 3:00 PM CET
Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Professor Kristian Schreiner
by Grev Wedels Plass Auksjoner
Est: 80,000 kr- 100,000 kr
74,000 kr2 Bids
Bo Bartlett (American, b.1955) Cindy
Dec 06, 11:00 AM EST
Bo Bartlett (American, b.1955) Cindy
by Freeman's
Est: $1,500- $2,000
$7502 Bids
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Tanino LIBERATORE Né en 1952 Portrait de femme
Dec 01, 12:00 PM CET
Tanino LIBERATORE Né en 1952 Portrait de femme
by Artcurial
Est: €700- €900
€4502 Bids
Dobrowolski, Aleksander
Dec 03, 10:00 AM CET
Dobrowolski, Aleksander
by Dusseldorfer Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€1001 Bid
Béjar Novella, Pablo Antonio
Dec 03, 10:00 AM CET
Béjar Novella, Pablo Antonio
by Dusseldorfer Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€2001 Bid
Attributed to Jules Cheret, A theatrical lady wearing a pink dress and yellow hat, pastel on canvas, 16" x 9",
Nov 30, 11:00 AM GMT
Attributed to Jules Cheret, A theatrical lady wearing a pink dress and yellow hat, pastel on canvas, 16" x 9",
by John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: £100- £200
£851 Bid
CHARCOAL PORTRAIT OF CSA ALABAMA SOLDIER
Nov 30, 9:00 AM EST
CHARCOAL PORTRAIT OF CSA ALABAMA SOLDIER
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $200- $400
$501 Bid
19thc. British School, Portrait of a Young Woman
Dec 03, 10:00 AM EST
19thc. British School, Portrait of a Young Woman
by Neue Auctions
Est: $250- $450
$1201 Bid
DICKERSON Robert (1924-2015), Pensive Child, c.1960., Charcoal, 67.5x47.5cm
Dec 04, 10:00 AM AEDT
DICKERSON Robert (1924-2015), Pensive Child, c.1960., Charcoal, 67.5x47.5cm
by Davidson Auctions
Est: AUD2,000- AUD4,000
AUD1,8001 Bid
Thomas Hart Benton, Self-Portrait in Pencil
Nov 29, 12:00 PM EST
Thomas Hart Benton, Self-Portrait in Pencil
by Old Kinderhook Auction Company
Est: $800- $1,200
$4001 Bid
Face of young woman, Early 20th century
Dec 02, 4:00 PM CET
Face of young woman, Early 20th century
by ArtLaRosa
Est: €0- €0
€800 Bids
19th Century, A drawing of a child
Nov 30, 1:00 PM GMT
19th Century, A drawing of a child
by Sloane Street Auctions
Est: £100- £200
£700 Bids
Americo DiFranza (NY,MA,1919-2004) pastel painting
Jan 02, 11:45 AM EST
Americo DiFranza (NY,MA,1919-2004) pastel painting
by Broward Auction Gallery LLC
Est: $380- $475
$1800 Bids
ELMER NELSON BISCHOFF (1916 - 1991, AMERICAN) Portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe.
Dec 01, 12:00 PM EST
ELMER NELSON BISCHOFF (1916 - 1991, AMERICAN) Portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe.
by Swann Auction Galleries
Est: $1,500- $2,500
$1,1000 Bids
Johann Heinrich Beck
Dec 04, 10:00 AM CET
Johann Heinrich Beck
by Kunstauktionshaus Schloss Ahlden
Est: €150- €300
€1500 Bids
Gutacherin.
Dec 16, 10:00 AM CET
Gutacherin.
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €100- €150
€1000 Bids
Araber.
Dec 17, 10:00 AM CET
Araber.
by Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Portrait Drawings


Ansorena

Ansorena

Galerie Bassenge

Galerie Bassenge

Lawsons

Lawsons

Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen

Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen