The Drawing Center celebrates the intimate and often revealing aspects of portraiture through four hundred years of portrait drawings in their current exhibition, “Portraits from the École des Beaux-Arts Paris.” The range of mediums and styles of portraits featured in this exhibition all work together to showcase the long history and meaning behind portraiture. It has lived as a platform of prestige as well as a means to reflect on identity. Portraiture carries a heavy history of varied formal qualities and ways of representing subjects and the exhibition's diverse display of works enabled viewers to fully experience the long history behind it and contextualize its place in society today. The traditional drawn portraiture showcased in the exhibition is no longer a common means of capturing one’s appearance. Portraits, once drawn or painted, now live as photographically derived profile pictures on social media and digital photography.
Walking through the exhibition, viewers are able to see the history of portraiture from early baroque to contemporary, allowing them to witness the shifting perceptions between artist and model, and artist and themselves. Intimacy between the artist and their work is showcased to the audience through the thorough detail of realistic rendering of emotions. Every slight detail of emotion shown in each piece on display, whether it is a small smirk or an intimate gaze, builds an overarching sense of calm and closeness. Even the rough brushwork and neon coloring in Claire Tabouret's "Les Débutantes.1" made of acrylic and vinyl paint on paper has a sense of a emotional connection. The debutantes looks at the viewer with a slight pout, staring straight on, full of angst. Her stare makes the viewer feel connected, allowing them to feel her emotion of oncoming adulthood.
“Portraits from the École des Beaux-Arts Paris” creates a provoking narrative of the quiet intimacy between artist and model through portrait's history, as well as invites viewers to experience these moments of closeness. This diverse exhibition of portraits allow viewers to appreciate these moments that are lost within the fast paced world today. When a click of a button captures a moment, does it hold as much as the painted gesture and markings of a drawing from a live model? This question has persisted through history since the invention of photography, and the Drawing Center’s new exhibition works as a reminder of the unique experience of viewing a drawn portrait.