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Before the Impressionists overturned many of the criteria established by the Academies and the Salons, the art of portraiture was considered to be the most important in the hierarchy of genres. Portraits of kings, queens and aristocrats were valued most, but there were notable exceptions to this trend. The Dutch Renaissance masters and, later, Chardin, made portraits of regular, middle class people (and their servants) not only acceptable, but also considered to be the highest form of art.

In several of my articles on this blog, I express some regret that with the advent of Modernism, postmodernism and, more generally, nonrepresentational art, we’ve lost so many valuable artistic traditions, including the art of realistic portraiture. The Cuban-born American artist Enrique Flores-Galbis helps brings portraiture back to our contemporary times. Trained at the New York University Graduate School under the photorealist, Adelle Weber, Enrique Flores-Galbis also received a Master of Fine Arts from the prestigious Parsons School of Design.

Great portraits can be appreciated by anyone: they’re nearly universal in their accessibility and appeal. Moreover, it takes great talent to execute them right, as Enrique Flores-Galbis clearly does. In Swing, shown below, the artist foregrounds a little girl, traditionally dressed, as if she were back from communion or Church. Her expression is frank and even a little awkward: exactly as it would be if she had posed for a photographer. In the background, we see featured Fragonard’s famous eighteenth-century Rococo painting, The Swing, commissioned by an aristocrat to feature the flirtatious games he played with his mistress. In this way, Flores-Galbis pays homage to the rich tradition of representational art to which his own painting belongs.

The painting Double Figure with Landscape, below, may be a study in forms (as its title suggests), but it’s also much more than that. Its vibrant colors and tender expression capture a mother’s love for her daughter. In managing to  express sweetness without any sentimentality, this painting also evokes–in theme, if not in style–some of Renoir’s paintings of the maternal bond.

As a cat lover, I can’t neglect the painting Cat, below. It has a generic title, but it’s adorably personal in capturing the cat’s expression: eyes fixated on the painter or viewer, ears cocked back, on the defensive. Cats don’t really pose for a camera or for a painter. There’s nothing postcard-ish or staged about this painting: Cat is a unique, endearing and personalized portrait.

You can see more of Enrique Flores-Galbis’s stunning realist portraits on his website, http://www.efgportraits.com/.

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com