In the good old days of art – when painters had to beg cap-in-hand to patrons for money and they could be whipped at the cart’s tail if the likeness of the sitter was not pleasing – portraiture was done seriously. Indeed, the results show exactly this characteristic. Everyone looks dour. If we could see the expression on the face of the artist, we might be further depressed.
The patrons wanted to be magnificent, and beautiful, and powerful, and witty, and all the other good things. If the artist failed to show this, or worse – suggested by some sly ruse that the sitter was less than noble…well that was the end of them. The fact that a number of paintings exist that fall into this flawed category is interesting…someone must have decided to accept the mean visual opinion after all. Perhaps the canvases fell into the hands of enemies.
Now that we have instant review of images and almost unlimited ability to fenocky around with the pixels we might think that our portraits would always be what was wanted and what was glorious. As photographers we have been credited with the ability to make the Queens Jester look like Sir Prancelot with two clicks of a button. That two clicks is important – it shows that the public would like something, wishes to pretend that it is automatic, and would prefer not to be the paying public…even if it takes an hour of pixel pushing.
Bad news, Bears. We can make you look good cheap if you look good already but if it is going to be a struggle, it is going to cost. If you cannot afford to pay, either cultivate honesty of soul or pose under a mail bag.