Concealment and revelation: Surrealism's contribution to 20th century portraiture

Waites, Lucy E. (2007) Concealment and revelation: Surrealism's contribution to 20th century portraiture. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The aim of the thesis is to consider the surrealist portrait and whether it has added to an understanding of portraiture as a genre. It uses Richard Brilliant's Portraiture (1991) and Shearer West's Portraiture (2004) as points of reference, using the limited examples of surrealist portraiture provided by both authors and their criteria for the consideration of portraiture in general. The thesis presents a number of other surrealist portraits, exploring whether Brilliant and West's criteria may have been modified had they analysed such images. It also seeks to identify any issues and new directions research may take in order to augment the study of portraiture. By focusing on surrealist portraiture, the thesis reflects on how a movement constructed and guided by human relationships, and informed by a number of principles of psychoanalytical theory has reflected such concerns in the portraiture they produced. An investigation of all surrealist portraits would have been impossible within the scope of this thesis; therefore, it has been necessary to select four key areas which most ably demonstrate issues relevant to portraiture: gender and self-exploration, photography, group portraiture and concealment. The thesis takes issue with Brilliant and West's view that likeness is an essential requirement of portraiture by providing a number of examples of surrealist portraiture which toy with expectations of likeness by the concealment of features, and
incorporation of an alter-ego. Brilliant's assertion that inanimate objects have no position in portraiture is also explored through specific examples of surrealist portraiture. By considering specific examples of surrealist portraiture the thesis questions such conventional definitions as those proposed by Brilliant and West.

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