Editor's introduction

Lara Perry, Eva Major-Marothy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The standing of Perry’s research into the history of the National Portrait Gallery, London resulted in her invitation by the Director and Senior Curators of the then newly established Portrait Gallery of Canada to contribute a paper to the Universities Art Association of Canada (2002). Perry’s existing work on national collecting policies was considered a key input. The distinctive collecting policy of the Portrait Gallery of Canada, which is a part of Canada's National Archives and which seeks to document anonymous as well as famous Canadians, provoked certain issues in the conference discussion, including the problems of how to distinguish portraits from other images, and how to understand the documentary value of portraiture. Current art practice and art historical analysis tends to privilege a cynical approach to visual evidence in general and portraiture in particular, and often refuses or ignores the more intuitive view of portraits as historical documents which underpins most national (and other) portrait collections. In response to this discussion, Perry and Eva Major-Marothy, Senior Curator at the Portrait Gallery of Canada, jointly edited a special double issue of Revue d’Art Canadienne/Canadian Art Review, the scholarly publication of the Universities Art Association of Canada. Titled The Portrait Issue/La Question du Portrait, this special issue collected scholarly articles on historical and contemporary portrait practice in a wide range of contexts, from the collections of Catherine de Medici to recent photographic works by Ken Lum. The ‘Editors’ Introduction' - authored by Perry - assesses each of the contributions in the issue as examples of current practice in portrait scholarship, paying particular attention to the question of how the author interprets the documentary value of portraits. Using the examples provided by the articles, the text develops an argument about how portraits document not sitters, nor social identities, but social transactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-8
Number of pages4
JournalRACAR - Canadian Art Review
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006


  • Photography
  • Collections
  • Portrait


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