Over the past 60 years, one artist has been building an esteemed career founded on his ability to capture life and character through portraiture. Now his portrait studies are getting a well-deserved spotlight during an upcoming solo exhibition.
“I’ve been ‘studying’ drawing all my professional life; I use it constantly to prepare for a painting that is either a figure study or a portrait,” says artist Burton Silverman. “Here the drawing becomes an exploration, not just for getting a facial resemblance, but trying to get at some characteristic, perhaps a psychological trait — the life of the person being drawn — something that elicits my sense of that person past the initial setting up a ‘pose.’”
Although Silverman’s words indicate the preparatory function of his drawings, the resulting pieces are gorgeous autonomous works of art, and they are highlighted in “Burton Silverman: Drawing to a Portrait,” a solo exhibition to open at Portraits, Inc. in New York City on October 14. In a world dominated by digital and other photographic imagery, Silverman endeavors to capture a pictorial realism that goes beyond the visual and touches on character, life, and energy — qualities that emerge from drawing his subjects from life, with expression and an organic process. Silverman’s use of black charcoal and white chalk produce a diverse tonality and full range of values, bringing a magnetic naturalism to his subjects.
“My Workshop Model” from 2014 is a great expression of Silverman’s philosophy, process, and skill. In near full-length, we find a bearded, seated male subject. The drawing has accurately captured the figure’s physiognomy via the expressive, fluid movements of Silverman’s hand. Highlights are illuminated in white, and also noteworthy is Silver’s juxtaposition between detail and roughly indicated forms. The effect is to make the figure subtly emerge from the page, heightening the viewer’s sense of three-dimensionality and form.
An opening reception will be held from 6-8 p.m. on October 14. “Burton Silverman: Drawing to a Portrait” will be on view through November 6.
To learn more, visit Portraits, Inc.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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