Artist's Statement on the Portrait

Trey Kay - Peabody & Edward R. Murrow award-winning  broadcaster. 2013. Oil on canvas, 60 x 30"

The Painted Portrait in the 21st Century

Home Towns Exhibition being opened by Mayor Patrick English, at the South Tipperary Arts Center (STAC), Clonmel, Ireland.

"Our Child" 2016. Acrylic, gold leaf, fish on canvas, 60 x 48"


The Portrait has come into a whole new phase in the 21st century through the ubiquity of smart phone cameras, and Internet and social media's demands for profile pictures. The camera captures an instant that, often, has a quality of stasis - no past or future. Stasis is defined as "a state or period of stability during which little or no evolutionary change occurs" (Webster). On the other hand, the slow-cooking of a painting is about hundreds or thousands of instants that yet, somehow, results in the sense of a single moment, but one that does have a past and a future.

The painted portrait has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years and the reason for this hasn't been satisfactorily answered, in my opinion. While I hope a good part of the explanation is for a new appreciation of the artform, an additional possibility may be because we live in such a fast-moving time in history that we haven't even processed the effects of this digital age on our posterity. But, on some level, we suspect that our posterity - just the fact of our having been here - is threatened. In times not-so-distant past, people saved photographs in albums and letters in boxes; artists who corresponded with each other archived each others letters and these letters are what give us insight into the real people behind the artworks and books we love. They been invaluable to historians of all sorts, including family historians and memoirists. Now, we take more photos than ever before in history, but for most of us, our photographs are stored in digital form on our electronic devices - the more tech savvy will have theirs stored on a cloud. But they aren't, for the most part, in physical form. How is that going to work out in the long term? I suspect it is this uncertainty that has drawn people back to the idea of timelessness and solidity of a painted portrait. There is an article on this subject from 2015 HERE - BTW, I do not charge anything close to these artists for a portrait. Yet... 







The human face is imprinted on us from day one - we are humans after all and programmed to constantly search out the human form from all of the other shapes and forms in our infantile fields of vision! The naked face is an ever-changing thing, an endless source of intrigue and mystery. In painterly terms, the process of reaching for the form is both intuitive and formal; it is an intense, in the moment, experience that requires deep and deliberate observation. As one enters and becomes subsumed by the painting, subtle angles, shapes and colors reveal themselves—the most exciting of which are often found in the shadows. My aim when painting a portrait is to solve the visual puzzle and illuminate, but not necessarily solve, its mystery - that would be presumptuous. And, with each work, to locate something of the universal in the individual through that intense study the process entails.


"Claire Lambe's accomplished oil and acrylic portraits are a reminder that this most traditional of genres still has relevance today."

- The Kingston Times, September 11, 2014

Please go to the drop down menu under at Gallery 2 for portrait and drawing portfolios. Click on an image for full size and to generate a slide show.

Scroll down for an artists statement on Portraiture in the 21st century​

- Gallery 2


Claire Lambe