Striking Resemblance: The Changing Art of Portraiture

Jan 25, 2014 - Jul 13, 2014
Voorhees Galleries

In contemporary life the portrait, thanks to the invention of photography, has become ubiquitous. For more than a century, photography’s production of inexpensive and portable images of loved ones for an ever-expanding clientele has served to democratize the portrait even as a trade in painted portraits continues. As a society, we collect images of friends and family and use these portraits to assert our place in a social world awash in photographic images. Photographic portraits have also been used as tools for identification and enlisted in ever-increasing trends toward public surveillance and been incorporated into the drive for consumption and profits as a tool for advertising, fashion, and fame.

Striking Resemblance explores portraiture in painting, photography, sculpture, print media, film, and video from about 1800 to the present. Drawn from the Zimmerli’s collection and including loans from private and public collections, the exhibition is organized around a set of parameters defined by the distinctions between the individual portrait, the partnerships suggested by the double portrait, and the representation of the many in the group portrait. Within this framework, the exhibition looks at the individual identified by face, full figure, and fragments; the double portrait as a representation of similarity or difference; and tensions in the group portrait between fitting in and standing out. The unifying characteristic of all these portraits is a core belief in the portrait as a representation of a single, unique person: whether as an individual self, acknowledged, celebrated, and isolated from the mass of humanity; as one of a unique two; or as one in a group.

This exhibition, and the accompanying book, copublished with Prestel, explores the changing face of portraiture as a historic and continuing phenomenon from about 1800 to the present in many media, in both two and three dimensions, and as still and moving images.

Organized by Donna Gustafson, Andrew W. Mellon Liaison for Academic Programs and Curator, and Susan Sidlauskas, Professor of Art History, Rutgers University

Supported in part by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Dorothy Dehner Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., and donors to the Zimmerli’s Annual Exhibition Fund: Voorhees Family Endowment; Alvin and Joyce Glasgold; Keith E. McDermott, RC’ 66; the Rutgers Class of 1959 in honor of their 55th reunion; Charles and Caryl Sills; and the Jerome A. Yavitz Charitable Foundation, Inc.—Stephen Cypen, President

Related Project

Not About Face: Identity and Representation, Past and Present, is the Zimmerli’s first publication available in ebook format only. It is a key component of an ambitious new collaboration between the Zimmerli Art Museum and the Department of Art History at Rutgers University, made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Capitalizing on the strengths of the Zimmerli and the Department of Art History, this initiative is centered on the firsthand study of works of art in the museum’s collection. For details and the ebook, visit the project webpage