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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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JOE BEELER "MORE HORSE TRADIN" CHARCOAL ON PAPER
May 05, 9:00 AM MST
JOE BEELER "MORE HORSE TRADIN" CHARCOAL ON PAPER
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$1006 Bids
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CLIFFORD BECK JR "NAVAJO WOMAN" PASTEL ON PAPER
May 05, 9:00 AM MST
CLIFFORD BECK JR "NAVAJO WOMAN" PASTEL ON PAPER
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$1106 Bids
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JOE BEELER "MORE HORSE TRADIN" CHARCOAL ON PAPER
May 05, 9:00 AM MST
JOE BEELER "MORE HORSE TRADIN" CHARCOAL ON PAPER
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$1006 Bids
Antique 19C French pastel painting signed
May 19, 11:45 AM EDT
Antique 19C French pastel painting signed
by Broward Auction Gallery LLC
Est: $280- $360
$103 Bids
19C. Rhode Island Sea Captain Cory Wife Drawing
Apr 24, 10:00 AM EDT
19C. Rhode Island Sea Captain Cory Wife Drawing
by Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers
Est: $200- $600
$1503 Bids
David Park, Portrait of Margret Van Horn
Apr 24, 10:00 AM PDT
David Park, Portrait of Margret Van Horn
by Los Angeles Modern Auctions
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$502 Bids
PRIMITIVE INK PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG GIRL.
May 03, 11:00 AM EDT
PRIMITIVE INK PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG GIRL.
by Amelia Jeffers
Est: $350- $700
$2002 Bids
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WILLIAM AHRENDT "BARNEY OLDFIELD AND THE CACTUS DERBY" GRAPHITE ON PAPER
May 05, 9:00 AM MST
WILLIAM AHRENDT "BARNEY OLDFIELD AND THE CACTUS DERBY" GRAPHITE ON PAPER
by Bradford's
Est: $0- $0
$102 Bids
BOB MILLARD - Untitled - Chief Dan George
Apr 28, 1:00 PM CST
BOB MILLARD - Untitled - Chief Dan George
by Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting
Est: $500- $600
$2001 Bid
EMILE FRIESZ (FRENCH 1879-1949)
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
EMILE FRIESZ (FRENCH 1879-1949)
by Shapiro Auctions LLC
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
Algesa O'Sickey Drawing, Portrait, Woman Holding Cat
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
Algesa O'Sickey Drawing, Portrait, Woman Holding Cat
by Neue Auctions
Est: $75- $150
$301 Bid
R.C. Gorman (Diné, 1932-2005) Maiden in Green
May 09, 10:00 AM MDT
R.C. Gorman (Diné, 1932-2005) Maiden in Green
by Hindman
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$5001 Bid
AMIET, CUNO: Selbstbildnis.
May 02, 9:00 AM CEST
AMIET, CUNO: Selbstbildnis.
by Dobiaschofsky Auktionen AG
Est: CHF600- CHF1,200
CHF6001 Bid
Signed (Illegible). Portrait Of A Gentleman. Charcoal On Board. 50cm x 43cm
May 08, 6:00 PM AEST
Signed (Illegible). Portrait Of A Gentleman. Charcoal On Board. 50cm x 43cm
by Christian McCann Auctions
Est: AUD50- AUD100
AUD201 Bid
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Félix BRACQUEMOND Paris, 1833 - Sèvres, 1914-Étude pour le portrait d’Édouard Manet
Apr 30, 2:30 PM CEST
Félix BRACQUEMOND Paris, 1833 - Sèvres, 1914-Étude pour le portrait d’Édouard Manet
by Artcurial
Est: €1,500- €2,000
€1,4001 Bid
ROSALBA CARRIERA ANTIQUE FRENCH PASTEL PAINTING
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
ROSALBA CARRIERA ANTIQUE FRENCH PASTEL PAINTING
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$501 Bid
Attributed to James Martin, Portrait of a Ship Captain
May 01, 12:00 PM EDT
Attributed to James Martin, Portrait of a Ship Captain
by South Bay Auctions Inc
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
"Two Guns White Calf" original Framed Art by Artist J.Larson (1971) ORIGINAL ART
Apr 26, 9:00 AM CDT
"Two Guns White Calf" original Framed Art by Artist J.Larson (1971) ORIGINAL ART
by Western Sportsman
Est: $10- $10,000
$101 Bid

Sellers Who Sell Portrait Drawings


Wannenes Art Auctions

Wannenes Art Auctions

Dobiaschofsky Auktionen AG

Dobiaschofsky Auktionen AG

Gonnelli Casa d'Aste

Gonnelli Casa d'Aste

Artcurial

Artcurial