AIGeneral ArtPhotographyVisual Art

AI: Portrait and Persona

The art of portraiture is a delicate and nuanced balance. There is a negotiation between the artist and the subject as to how to portray the individual.   Pose, lighting, expression, wardrobe, setting… all of these are carefully considered decisions.

A well composed portrait sends a clear message about the who the subject wants others to believe they are, but at the same time it needs to be realistic enough for the audience to accept that message without question. It has to appear truthful and honest despite the fact that it is entirely staged.

With that in mind I would like to suggest a critique of an iconic portrait of one of our icons, Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin, Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1868

Question: What message is this portrait attempting to send about Darwin?

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

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Ryan Consell is a skeptical artist, tap-dancing armorer, juggling scientist, rock-climbing writer, sword-fighting math teacher, uni-cycling gamer, fire-spinning academic and devout nerd. He has a Masters in Applied science, most of a bachelors in Fine Arts, and a very short attention span. He is the author of How Not to Poach a Unicorn and half of the masochistic comedy duo that is Creative Dissonance. Follow him on Twitter @StudentofWhim


  1. March 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    All portraits from this time period say the same thing to me: don’t move don’t move don’t move

  2. March 22, 2011 at 2:20 am

    Hi gaze is to the side and not directed at the viewer perhaps to imply a non aggressive contemplative subject. The softness and the blurred edges convey a subtle mystery and gentleness of a wise man.

  3. March 22, 2011 at 9:42 am

    @Brian, given that photographs required absolute stillness, what does it say that they chose that medium?

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