Use these questions as starting points for discussion about a portrait.


  • Who is the person in the portrait?
  • How old is the person?
  • Can you tell when the person lived?
  • Does anything that the person is wearing give you any clues? (Clothing, jewelry, makeup, hat, etc.)
  • Besides the person himself/herself, are there any other objects in the portrait that give the viewer any clues? (objects that the person is holding, objects that are in the background, props such as chairs, tables, etc.)
  • Does the way the person is standing or sitting tell you anything about them?

When, where and why

  • What does the picture tell you about the time that the subject lived?
  • Can you guess what country it was painted in?
  • Can you guess whom it was painted for?
  • Do you think this is a self-portrait?
  • What makes this portrait unique?

Feelings and Emotions

  • How does the portrait make you feel?
  • Are you interested in the portrait?
  • Do you like the way the artist has arranged the picture?
  • Do you like the way the artist has shown details?
  • Can you predict if a male or female artist created this portrait?
  • How do you think the artist felt about the person he/she painted?
  • How do you think the person in the picture is feeling or what is their mood? How can you tell?

Set Up

  • How has the artist arranged the portrait?
  • Do you think the person posed for this portrait?
  • Where is the person looking (at the viewer, away, at something else)?
  • If there is more than one person in the picture, are they touching? What could this mean?
  • What does the background and the objects in the background of the picture tell us?
  • How much space has the artist left around the person and how is it used?
  • What view of the person is pictured?
    • 3/4 view
    • full frontal
    • profile
    • full body

Style of the Portrait:

  • Is the portrait realistic (looks absolutely real) or is it abstract (the artist was thinking about something real, but altered the visual reality of the subject in some way).

Art Elements: Shape, Line and Space

  • What shapes can you see in this portrait?
  • Are the lines in the portrait straight or curved?
  • How often does the artist repeat certain colors or shapes within the portrait.