Loading Spinner

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

See all items

Contemporary oil on panel dog portrait
Oct 29, 9:00 AM EDT
Contemporary oil on panel dog portrait
by Pook & Pook, Inc.
Est: $80- $120
$1307 Bids
bp parity badge
FRANZ GRUSS LYING NUDE WOMAN PASTEL & CHARCOAL ON PAPER
Nov 07, 9:00 AM MST
FRANZ GRUSS LYING NUDE WOMAN PASTEL & CHARCOAL ON PAPER
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$605 Bids
Original Art Harley Brown Pastel Painting
Oct 30, 6:00 PM MST
Original Art Harley Brown Pastel Painting
by Ace Of Estates
Est: $800- $2,000
$1105 Bids
bp parity badge
FRANK VAN SLOUN MALE & FEMALE OIL PASTEL ON PAPER
Nov 07, 9:00 AM MST
FRANK VAN SLOUN MALE & FEMALE OIL PASTEL ON PAPER
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$1104 Bids
bp parity badge
GLENNA GOODACRE "NUDE" PASTEL ON PAPER
Nov 07, 9:00 AM MST
GLENNA GOODACRE "NUDE" PASTEL ON PAPER
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$804 Bids
bp parity badge
FRANZ GRUSS NUDE WOMAN PASTEL & CHARCOAL ON PAPER
Nov 07, 9:00 AM MST
FRANZ GRUSS NUDE WOMAN PASTEL & CHARCOAL ON PAPER
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$403 Bids
bp parity badge
Madge Tennent, Princess Kaiulani
Nov 05, 3:00 PM MDT
Madge Tennent, Princess Kaiulani
by Santa Fe Art Auction
Est: $800- $1,200
$7003 Bids
FEMALE PORTRAIT
Oct 30, 1:00 PM CEST
FEMALE PORTRAIT
by Galerie Moenius
Est: CHF200- CHF400
CHF2603 Bids
Pablo Picasso CHARLES FELD Double-Sided Drawing
Nov 06, 12:00 PM EDT
Pablo Picasso CHARLES FELD Double-Sided Drawing
by Palm Beach Modern Auctions
Est: $30,000- $50,000
$17,0002 Bids
Rosina Emmet Sherwood: Young Lady, 1910s, Pastel
Oct 28, 12:00 PM EDT
Rosina Emmet Sherwood: Young Lady, 1910s, Pastel
by Zikorn Arts
Est: $2,500- $3,000
$2,5001 Bid
PORTRAIT OF GEORGE WILLARD COBB BY BRANTLEY SMITH (AMERICAN, 19TH/20TH CENTURY)
Oct 29, 10:00 AM CDT
PORTRAIT OF GEORGE WILLARD COBB BY BRANTLEY SMITH (AMERICAN, 19TH/20TH CENTURY)
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $300
$501 Bid
El Lissitzky (1890-1941), afte
Nov 08, 10:00 AM CET
El Lissitzky (1890-1941), afte
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€1001 Bid
Dan McCleary (b.1952) Chuck Bulot Pastel Portrait
Nov 17, 12:00 PM EST
Dan McCleary (b.1952) Chuck Bulot Pastel Portrait
by Hill Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $1,000
$501 Bid
Oil on canvas portrait of a man with snifter
Oct 29, 9:00 AM EDT
Oil on canvas portrait of a man with snifter
by Pook & Pook, Inc.
Est: $40- $80
$201 Bid
PORTRAIT OF PAVEL A. RADIMOV (1887-1967) AND A VIEW OF A HOUSE
Oct 30, 1:00 PM CEST
PORTRAIT OF PAVEL A. RADIMOV (1887-1967) AND A VIEW OF A HOUSE
by Galerie Moenius
Est: CHF50- CHF100
CHF501 Bid
bp parity badge
Balinese Man
Oct 31, 11:00 AM GMT
Balinese Man
by Larasati Auctioneers
Est: £400- £800
£3501 Bid
bp parity badge
Portrait of a Lady
Oct 31, 11:00 AM GMT
Portrait of a Lady
by Larasati Auctioneers
Est: £1,300- £2,000
£1,2001 Bid
Dora Maar, Self Portrait
Nov 12, 11:00 AM EST
Dora Maar, Self Portrait
by Rago Arts and Auction Center
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$5001 Bid
EDMONDO PIZZELLA pastel
Oct 30, 12:00 PM EDT
EDMONDO PIZZELLA pastel
by South Bay Auctions Inc
Est: $500- $700
$2501 Bid

Sellers Who Sell Portrait Drawings


Dane Fine Art Auctions

Dane Fine Art Auctions

OG Collections

OG Collections

Historia Auktionshaus

Historia Auktionshaus

Dobiaschofsky Auktionen AG

Dobiaschofsky Auktionen AG