How portraiture has changed (or not) in 100 years

On the occasion of the Archibald Prize turning 100, we look at what that history means to contemporary making, drawing on a swag of exhibitions this winter season that contest and reassert the role of portraiture.

No one would deny that we have been obsessed with portraiture for as long as time. We only need to look at Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art’s (QAGOMA) exhibition of European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is peppered with portraits by art history’s greats – Rembrandt, Vermeer, Daumier, Renoir, Degas, among others – to see examples of portraiture stretching back centuries.

One of the earliest works in the exhibition is Davide Ghirlandaio’s (David Bigordi) portrait of the 18-year old Selvaggia Sassetti – daughter of the Medici bank director – painted in c.1487.

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Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina