The National Portrait Gallery’s impressive new survey of American portraits from 1945 to 1975 is based on denying what it begins by affirming: that “in mid-twentieth century America, everyone seemed to agree that portraiture was finished as a progressive art form.”
Those are the words of Wendy Wick Reaves and Brandon Brame Fortune, who with David Ward are the curators of “Face Value: Portraiture in the Age of Abstraction.”Of course, they wouldn’t have a show if notable American artists hadn’t made portraits in the era during which the form was supposedly moribund.
The Age of Abstraction, if it truly happened, didn’t last long. As Reaves and Fortune note, Larry Rivers started painting figuratively in the early 1950s, less than a decade into the period the show covers.
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