Originally from Austalia and now based in Paris, portrait artist Ralph Heimans has received much attention for his striking portraits of musician and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy (image above, top three) and Princess Mary of Denmark (fourth and fifth down), among others. He has recently accepted a commission to paint an official portrait of the Queen of England.
Heimans uses a traditional glazing technique more common in the 17th and 18th centuries than in contemporary painting, and his approach shows his admiration for masters of chiaroscuro like Caravaggiao and Velazquez. For some reason, though, my first thought was of Jacques Louis David (though much warmer), perhaps because of the importance that the settings play in his portraits.
It’s interesting to note that most of Heimans’ portrait compositions are horizontal — “landscape” rather than “portrait” orientation. The settings say something about the sitter, putting them in a context, and also create a great deal of the visual interest in the works when viewed as paintings, rather than as portraits of specific individuals.
He experiments with his compositions in other ways, taking chances on unusual angles and points of view, working with cast shadows, and creating wonderfully engaging images within his images in the form of reflections.
In addition to the (unfortunately limited) selection of work on his site, there are a few short videos that delve into the creation of two of his signature pieces.