In "A Supreme Portrait Artist" (Door County Now, Nov. 16), Door County artist James Ingwersen quotes esteemed portrait painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) on what defined his art.
The great portrait painters were all pre-modern, but there are good professional artists, such as Ingwersen, who continue specializing in realistic portraiture.
However, one can say as Sargent remarked, the human face is never totally revealed even realistically: Note those historical paintings where the likeness of George Washington is never quite the same.
It is almost a lost art form; not that many artists of recent can paint or draw a realistic face.
We know of the groundbreaking work of a Picasso, who already abandoned realist depiction of human form before he was 30 years old; and, with later abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollack, one can forget recognizing from them much reality.
Human faces are even rarely presented today in impressionistic art.
Ironically, the moderns, who were unwilling or unable to paint or draw realistically, garner millions in sales from collectors.
But knowing that an artist like Ingwersen carries on in the romantic tradition set by the pre-moderns, like Sargent, Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, one realizes the genre has not completely disappeared.
I would think where portraitists today primarily find an outlet for their craft is in painting for posterity's sake — for example, faithfully rendering on canvas true-to-life well-known persons, including an associate justice of the Supreme Court.
As pointed out, other notable personages have had themselves portrayed by Ingwersen. Has he not also painted President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once sat for him?