12 Stunning Portraits at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Updated on June 18, 2018
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

External view of a portion of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston
External view of a portion of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston | Source

Studying the work of fine artists through the centuries can tell us a lot about the times and lifestyles of their subjects. This is especially true when it comes to portraiture. The painting styles of these artists also inform us about the current artistic trends of the day.

Please take time to enjoy the 12 portraits that drew my interest inside of our Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. This is a small sample of what you will find if and when you get to visit our fine arts museum in person.

There are areas where photography is allowed as long as one does not use a flash and other areas that are off limits. Obviously, the portraits offered here for your viewing pleasure are from the area where one can take pictures. Please enjoy!

Portrait of a Woman by Alexei Jawlensky
Portrait of a Woman by Alexei Jawlensky | Source

1. Portrait of a Woman by Alexei Jawlensky

This is a Russian artist who lived from 1864 to 1941 and who created this Portrait of a Woman in 1912. It is an oil painted on board.

The notes to the side of this striking painting tell us that Jawlensky liked using the "strong colors of Fauvism" and also the "vigorous brushwork of Expressionism."

In a book of his memoirs, Jawlensky thought that the series of square pictures of large-scale heads like this painting were considered by him to be the best work that he had created.

Madame Cezanne in Blue by Paul Cezanne
Madame Cezanne in Blue by Paul Cezanne | Source

2. Madame Cezanne in Blue by Paul Cézanne

This most famous of painters was French and lived in the years from 1839 to 1906. He was a post-impressionist painter bridging the 19th and 20th century.

Both Matisse and Picasso who both became famous painters credited Paul Cézanne with being "the father of us all."

Although his father wanted him to study law, he ultimately financed his study of art. Due to that generous allowance, Paul Cézanne was not the typical "starving artist" but was free to learn and explore.

In this painting above, titled Madame Cézanne in Blue, he portrays his wife with his distinctive brushstrokes and unique choice of colors.

Empress Eugenie by Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Empress Eugenie by Franz Xaver Winterhalter | Source

3. Empress Eugenie by Franz X. Winterhalter

This oil on canvas titled Empress Eugénie was created in 1854 by Franz X. Winterhalter, a German artist who lived from 1805 to 1873.

According to the notations to the side of this portrait painting, Countess Eugénie de Montijo was of Portuguese descent. After marrying Napoleon the third in 1853, she graced the French throne with grace and elegance emulating the fashionable Marie Antoinette.

With the patronage of Empress Eugénie and the French court, Franz Winterhalter's fame and success as a portraitist became well known.

The Empress was a beautiful woman and was gracefully adorned with layers of elegant clothing for this particular portrait. The youthful lines of her neck and shoulders were accentuated by the simple flowers placed at her bosom. Her upswept hair and her youth were forever captured and memorialized with this particular painting.

Portrait of John Joseph Henry by Thomas Lawrence
Portrait of John Joseph Henry by Thomas Lawrence | Source

4. Portrait of John Joseph Henry by Thomas Lawrence

An English artist who lived from 1769 to 1830, Thomas Lawrence produced this Portrait of John Joseph Henry as an oil on canvas in the year 1805.

Thomas Lawrence was the leading portrait painter in England at the time. John Joseph Henry (when he sat for this portrait) was the high sheriff of County Kildare in Ireland. He is dressed in Roman costume with his hair cut in a "Brutus crop" which according to notations at the side of this painting was popular at the beginning of the 19th century.

Lawrence died before finishing and delivering this painting to sheriff Henry. It is painted over a sketch of another male sitter which is still slightly visible under the right kind of lighting and with some scrutiny on the part of the viewer at the bottom of this canvas.

Madame Valtat by Louis Valtat
Madame Valtat by Louis Valtat | Source

5. Madame Valtat by Louis Valtat

This was a French artist who lived from 1869 to 1952. In 1906 he painted this charming oil on canvas using his wife, Madame Valtat, as his model.

Louis Valtat was among the first painters to embrace the colorful style of fauvism blending it with an impressionistic style. He was a participant in the very first Fauve exhibition at the Salon d' Automne in 1905.

Can you see evidence in this painting of his being influenced by the artists van Gogh and Renoir?

Leopold Zborowski by Amedeo Modigliani
Leopold Zborowski by Amedeo Modigliani | Source

6. Leopold Zborowski by Amedeo Modigliani

This Italian artist lived from 1884 to 1920. He created this oil on canvas titled Léopold Zborowski in 1916.

Léopold Zborowski was a Polish poet who met Modigliani in the Parisian neighborhood of Montparnasse.

What is really interesting according to the notations to the side of this painting is that although Léopold Zborowski was not a rich man, he so appreciated the work done by Modigliani that he decided to financially support him. When he died, Zborowski's widow had to sell all of the Modigliani paintings in her possession because of being left so deeply in debt. That is not your typical story of art patronage!

Marcelle Aron (Madame Tristan Bernard) by Edouard Vuillard
Marcelle Aron (Madame Tristan Bernard) by Edouard Vuillard | Source

7. Marcelle Aron (Madame Tristan Bernard) by Edouard Villard

This was a French artist who lived from 1868 to 1940. He painted this distemper on canvas from 1913–1914.

The subject matter is titled Marcelle Aron (Madame Tristan Bernard). This stylish lady is forever captured on canvas petting her blonde dog in this highly patterned room in which more of the surrounding space is reflected in the mirror behind her.

The following from Wikipedia describes distemper painting: "Distemper is a decorative paint and a historical medium for painting pictures, and contrasted with tempera. The binder may be glues of vegetable or animal origin (excluding egg). Soft distemper is not abrasion resistant and may include binders such as chalk, ground pigments, and animal glue. Hard distemper is stronger and wear-resistant and can include casein or linseed oil as binders."

Portrait of Pierre Cadeau de Mongazon by Nicolas de Largilliere
Portrait of Pierre Cadeau de Mongazon by Nicolas de Largilliere | Source

8. Portrait of Pierre Cadeau de Mongazon by Nicolas de Largilliere

This artist was French and lived in the years 1656 to 1746. He painted this Portrait of Pierre Câdeau de Mongazon in the year 1715. It is an oil on canvas.

According to notations to the side of this painting, Nicolas de Largilliere was an extremely prolific artist in his time, producing well over 1,500 portraits!

This subject "was probably painted about 1715 just after the sitter had been appointed as a court magistrate." Look at that terrific curly white wig on the magistrate's head. At least I am supposing it is a wig which seems to have been part of the costuming just as important as the robes worn in court back in that time.

Portrait of Mrs. Jeff Powis and her Daughter by Joshua Reynolds
Portrait of Mrs. Jeff Powis and her Daughter by Joshua Reynolds | Source

9. Portrait of Mrs. Jeff Powis and her Daughter by Joshua Reynolds

An English artist who lived from 1723 to 1792, this oil on canvas of the Portrait of Mrs. Jeff Powis and her Daughter was painted in 1777.

The notation to the side of this large painting states the following:

First president of the Royal Academy in London, Joshua Reynolds was the most influential artist and one of the most important portrait painters in 18th-century England. In his lectures to the Academy, he urged that modern painting, even portraiture, be based on antique prototypes. He seems to have followed his own precept in this portrait: the painter "dresses his figure something with the general air of the antique for the sake of dignity, and preserves something of the modern for the sake of Likeness.

Portrait of Monsieur d' Hotel in Hunting Clothes by Jean-Marc Nattier
Portrait of Monsieur d' Hotel in Hunting Clothes by Jean-Marc Nattier | Source

10. Portrait of Monsieur d' Hotel in Hunting Clothes by Jean-Marc Nattier

This is a French artist who lived in the years 1685 to 1766. He executed this oil on canvas in 1727 and the subject is the Portrait of Monsieur d' Hôtel in Hunting Clothes.

Back in the 16th century, the aristocracy often chose to be portrayed with some of what would have occupied a portion of their time. In this case, the hunting gear and one of his dogs obviously was a favorite pastime of his. We can learn much about the leisure interests of the wealthy by looking at portraits such as this one.

Jean-Marc Nattier started out as a history painter but turned to portraiture because it more readily paid the bills.

Portrait of Lieutenant Colonel William Shirriff H.E.I.C.S. by Henry Raeburn
Portrait of Lieutenant Colonel William Shirriff H.E.I.C.S. by Henry Raeburn | Source

11. Portrait of Lieutenant Colonel William Shirriff H.E.I.C.S. by Henry Raeburn

Henry Raeburn was a Scottish artist who lived in the years from 1756 to 1823. He painted this Portrait of Lieutenant Colonel William Shirriff, H.E.I.C.S. in 1800. It is an oil on canvas.

This proud looking Lieutenant Colonel was in the service of the East India Company in 1800 and died in 1802 as the result of an accident. It is a large canvas and shows the proud looking Lieutenant Colonel in his elaborate costume wielding his sword.

Henry Raeburn made his successful career painting entirely in Scotland rather than migrating to London as so many other artists did in that day and time.

Self Portrait by Francois de Troy
Self Portrait by Francois de Troy | Source

12. Self Portrait by Francois de Troy

A French artist who lived from 1645 to 1730, Francois de Troy painted this self-portrait in 1704. This self-portrait along with one of his wife was exhibited in The Academy Salon of 1704.

Francois de Troy painted for many monarchs including Louis XIV and Louis XV along with other members of high society. He was famous throughout Europe and almost exclusively painted portraits.

His son Jean Francois de Troy followed in his footsteps and also made a name for himself as an artist.

Without even knowing who he was it would be easy to identify this man as an artist and painter with him displaying his palette and brushes in this pose.

External view of a portion of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston
External view of a portion of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston | Source

Hopefully you enjoyed this look at 12 of the portrait paintings found inside of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It is a fantastic museum holding these masterpieces and so much more. If you get a chance to visit Houston, Texas be sure to set aside some time to visit our fine arts museum. It will be time well spent!

Which of these portraits did you find to be the most beautiful and/or interesting?

See results

Location of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Peggy Woods

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      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 hours ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Rajan,

        I agree that knowing a bit about the subject matter and/or the artists makes viewing paintings even more interesting.

      • rajan jolly profile image

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        19 hours ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Lovely paintings and nice to know the history of the subject and the painter.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        5 days ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Patricia,

        Being able to paint a portrait and actually capture a likeness does indeed take talent. I can guess from what you wrote which artist and painting that you voted for in the poll. Sending good thoughts and prayers your way for you and your entire family.

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        5 days ago from sunny Florida

        when I studied art history in college Modigliani was one of my favorites and remains so today. I am in awe of artists in general but those who can produce portraits such as these have my great admiration. I do believe it is truly a gift to be able to envision such works and then create them. Once again may Angels come your way today ps

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 weeks ago

        Yes, it is always better if you have someone in the group who knows what you are looking at.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        2 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Robert,

        Tour guides in museums can offer great background information. My aunt was a docent at the Milwaukee Art Museum and when she visited us in Houston she was a fount of information when we visited art museums together. I had my own personal guide with her and that was fun.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 weeks ago

        It's good to have a tour guide in an art museum. I've found they can give some really good background information.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        2 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Robert,

        I agree with you. Much can be learned regarding the past by viewing historic portrait paintings.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        2 weeks ago

        Thank you for the pictures and background. There is much to be learned from historic paintings.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Pamela,

        It would be difficult to know the names of all the wonderful artists from the past plus the present. I certainly don't know all of them. If you have some extra time when you are in Houston it would be wonderful to meet you.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        3 weeks ago from United States

        I didn't know many of those artists, but I love to see the pictures. I went to a Monte display in Atlanta a few years ago, and fell in love with his paintings. I really like the impressionist, but overall I must admit my ignorance.

        Excellent article, and I may be visiting Houston in Aug., so maybe I will visit the museum if time permits.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Chitrangada Sharan,

        I'm pleased to be able to show you more examples of the art you would encounter if visiting our Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Thanks for your comment.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        3 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

        Another fascinating article about the art work in Houston!

        I loved all the portraits, and it’s difficult to choose one. I can imagine, how much hard work goes in each piece, by the artists.

        You have an excellent understanding of art, and that’s why you are able to showcase the varieties of art work to others.

        Great article and thanks for sharing!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Patricia,

        I hope you do get to see these magnificent portrait paintings and so much more next summer if your plans gel to come here to Houston. Would enjoy meeting you in person. Contact me ahead of time and we will make some plans. Sending good thoughts and prayers your way.

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        4 weeks ago from sunny Florida

        Love love love so many of these amazing pieces of art. What a gift it is to have such talent. Thank you Peggy for sharing these with us...I do so hope to visit there one day. I hope to visit Texas next summer. Angels are headed your way this morning my friend. ps

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi manatita44,

        It is merely happenstance that 4 of the 12 portraits featured here were executed by French artists. I believe that our Houston Fine Arts Museum has good representation from artists worldwide. So nice to know that you are enjoying getting to view some of what is contained in our museum buildings here in our city.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        4 weeks ago from london

        Like me, you must like Princess Eugenie, as you describe her so well! She was indeed beautiful!

        You are doing a great service for Houston by bringing the paintings to life for us internationals or foreigners. Awesome!

        I note in your pieces that the French Artists tend to more prominant. Overall, a most exquisite and sublime Hub

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Linda,

        That self portrait by Francois de Troy is very interesting. It looks like he is looking straight ahead at perhaps an empty canvas contemplating what next he will be painting. Or perhaps he is looking at a model. Thanks for the visit.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Liz,

        I am pleased that you liked the selection of portrait paintings that I chose to show in this post. Thanks for your comment.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Bill,

        That 12 year old boy that you described who was painting beautiful portraits sounds like a genius. Some people are simply born with amazing talents.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        I had trouble deciding on my favourite painting but eventually chose the last one. I find the face of the artist very interesting. Thank you for an enjoyable and informative tour, Peggy.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        This is a great collection with a very good commentary alongside it.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Mary,

        It is my pleasure to be able to show you a tiny bit of what you would find if you ever visit our Museum of Fine Arts Houston. It is also nice to be able to introduce you to artists of which you were unfamiliar. Thanks for commenting.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi FlourishAnyway,

        Thanks for the compliment. The person you truly would have loved going through art museums with would have been my aunt when she was alive. She was a docent at the Milwaukee Art Center and had one of her degrees in art. She knew so much and made it so enjoyable when viewing different pieces of art because she could fill in so much of the background of what the artist was trying to portray and/or the history behind it.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Frank,

        I am so happy to be able to be in a position to show you some of what our fine art museum showcases. This is a mere peek into what is contained in those wonderful walls. They are now expanding and soon there will be another building on the campus. Glad you are enjoying this.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Jackie,

        Mrs. Jeff Powis and Her Daughter is a beautiful painting. The drapes and folds of the clothing is painted so beautifully. As to the magnificent trees outside of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts...there are many such trees in that entire area of town. Thanks for being the first to comment.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        Fine art is beyond me. I can't even draw stick figures. There was a boy on Little Big Shots last night, twelve years old, been painting for ten months, and his portraits were stunning...that kind of talent is breathtaking.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        4 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        After reading all your hubs on art in Houston and other parts of Texas, I want to go back there and enjoy seeing all these pieces. In this one, I feel I have peeked at the best in the Musuem of Fine Arts in Houston and I'm really happy. I haven't seen works of some of these artists before.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        4 weeks ago from USA

        You would be a fantastic guide (formal or informal) to walk through an art museum with. Your insights and knowledge of art is so amazing. I liked so many of these but ended up voting for Princess Eugénie.

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 

        4 weeks ago from Shelton

        you keep sharing the beauty.. I was going to say the hidden gems.. but it's open to all of us... and you give us the first hand peek through your hubs Peggy, thank you for that

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        4 weeks ago from The Beautiful South

        Many were good but I liked the painting of Mrs. Jeff Powis and her daughter, best. I also loved the photo you took of the tree outside the museum.

        I love big trees with character and I bet that tree would have some stories if it could talk!

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