European and American Art
1500 – 1900

During the Renaissance in Italy and northern Europe, artists and patrons began to prize the naturalistic likeness in portraiture, which had previously reached comparable heights of realism only during brief periods of Egyptian and Greco-Roman antiquity. The development of the portrait in European and American art is traced in this gallery from Giorgione’s exquisite and revolutionary portrait of 1506 to Goya’s thoroughly modern Duque de la Roca of 1795.

The dramatic emergence of a new type of patron—the wealthy merchant class—began in the Netherlands in the 1600s with Britain and the fledgling United States following suit soon afterwards. Previously, patronage in Europe was confined primarily to the nobility and civic institutions. Pioneers in this new artistic climate included Frans Hals, who painted his subjects in more relaxed, information compositions, while Anthony van Dyck reshaped two centuries of British portraiture with the seemingly effortless refinement and elegance of his depictions. Later, Goya reached new heights of naturalism with an unflinching approach as the world around him rapidly transformed from Enlightenment to modernity.



Read the Art of the Portrait full exhibition label text in English and Spanish.


Featured at top right: Giorgione (Giorgio de Castelfranco), Portrait of a Man (‘Terris Portrait’), 1506. Oil on panel. Gift of Anne R. and Amy Putnam, 1941.100.