/ Kruizenga Art Museum

Portrait Stories

January 13–May 13, 2022


Portraits are all around us. We see them every day on our social media channels and news feeds. We carry them in our pockets on our phones, driver’s licenses and money. Portraits decorate our homes and offices, but also appear in government buildings and public parks. They show up in commercial advertisements, political campaign materials and many types of cultural products. Portraits are so commonplace that we often scarcely notice them, let alone think critically about them. But portraits are worthy of serious attention. They are important both as historical documents and as mirrors of contemporary society. By studying portraits, we may gain insights into the lives and cultures of other people, places and chronological periods, and from those insights we may gain a deeper understanding of ourselves.

A portrait is an image that portrays a person’s physical appearance while also revealing some aspects of his or her social and cultural identity, character and personality. Historically, portraits have been created to serve a wide variety of functions, including (but not limited to) documenting a person’s or group’s existence and celebrating their important life events, bolstering their political power and social status, and earning cultural recognition and financial rewards for both the portrait subjects and the artists. Portrait traditions exist in many countries around the world, and portraits can be found in a broad range of formats and media, from paintings, prints and photographs to sculptures, textiles and ceramics.

This exhibition presents a diverse selection of historical and contemporary portraits drawn from the Kruizenga Art Museum collection. The goals of the exhibition are to raise critical questions about portraiture as an artistic genre, and to share the many stories that portraits can tell about the subjects of the images, the artists who made them and the historical contexts in which they were created. The exhibition was curated by five Hope College students from the fall 2022 Art 360 course: Charlotte Hartfiel (2023), Madai Huerta (2023), Nathan Koorndyk (2023), Lucy Pietryga (2024) and Stephanie Somjak (2024). The museum is grateful to these students for their hard work, and to all of the donors whose gifts helped make this exhibition possible: David Kamansky and Gerald Wheaton, Dr. and Mrs. Bruce Haight, George Pelgrim and Phyllis White, Risa and Chris Engle, Ronald ’62 and Gerri Vander Molen, the Peter C. and Emmajean Cook Foundation, Orville C. Beattie ’39, Dr. Marc Baer, Dr. Kathleen Verduin, Dr. Stephan Winton, Bonnie Schiffman, Nancy Webber and Jack E. Lapp.

Image: Payasa. John Valadez (American, b. 1951). 2022. Screen print. Hope College Collection, 2022.40

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View Portrait Storeis exhibition and additional related artworks in the KAm collection database