This is one of numerous postings I made, the others being more
technical in nature, often with reference to art history,
sometimes causing considerable controversy but always highly
intellectually stimulating (I paid my respects to and gained
respect from some of today's great portrait artists).
Like most issues, "good taste" in
portraiture or in any other field of art may be approached from
both a subjective and an objective perspective.
Subjectively, the arbiter of taste may be the
subject and/or the artist. As those most intimately involved
with a portrait, they may be either disregarded as hopelessly
biased parties or respected as those whose points of view truly
matter the most.
For a commissioned work, the ultimate arbiter of
taste is typically the client. As the party making possible the
creation of the work, he or she may be either disregarded as
"a necessary evil" or respected as a valued patron of
For works on public display, the inevitable
arbiters of taste will be the public at large. As individuals
coming from every conceivable background, they may be either
disregarded as the "vulgar masses" or respected as
individuals of equal worth in the eyes of God and democracy.
And for works under formal review, the arbiters
of taste are the professional critics. As students of the
history of art, they may be either disregarded as
"prisoners of academic thinking" or respected as
careful analysts of what is and is not well done art.
Which brings us to the other perspective on
"good taste" -- which may strike some serious artists
as pure heresy -- the objective view. Is there not only
"relative" good taste but also, in fact,
"absolute" good taste?
Although the ultimate arbiter of that is
undoubtedly the Creator of us all, I would humbly submit that a
portrait or any other composition is in irrefutably good taste
if it is in balance .
I speak a design balanced not only in its
elements -- of line, form, space, and color -- but also in its
subject matter -- relative to the sensibilities of humanity,
within the limits of the time and place of its creation. Art is
an activity that not only is defined by human beings but also
has defined beings as human, since at least the cave paintings
of the Cro-Magnons.
How such a balance is achieved -- by means of
harmonies and/or contrasts -- is the stuff of art, the creative
outlet of the artist.
All in all, considerations of good taste in
portraiture and other forms of art must themselves strike a
balance between the opinions of the subjects, the artists, the
patrons, the public, and the professional critics. As in the
scales of justice, good judgment in art hangs in the balance.