More Than Just People: Special Commissions

House portrait by Deborah Chabrian, watercolor, 14 x 10 inches


When we talk about a portrait, it is generally assumed that we are referring to an image of a person—be that a drawing, sculpture, painting or photograph.  Likely, we further imagine that the depicted is special—why else would he or she be immortalized had not said person accomplished something out of the ordinaryincluding being dearly loved?

The latter attribute implies that, more than anything else, portraiture announces the specialness of a subject—in fact the ascending attribute that distinguishes quality portraiture from less successful examples is the ability of the artist to mirror back to the viewer the very affection for the subject that inspired the commission.

So if we agree that portraiture’s real subject matter is love and reverence—can what it depicts be extended to the things and places that are similarly important to us—like our homes and gardens?  Surely they too are worthy of our devotion and in many instances extensions of ourselves and our families. 

Consider Portraits, Inc. artist Deborah Chabrian, an award-winning watercolorist well-known for her portraits of houses, gardens, and interiors.  Like portraitists who focus on people as their primary commission subjects, Chabrian is adept at getting a likeness; with sweeping pictorial views and distinct details, she captures the specialness of place and why it is loved and cared for.  Architectural rendering, aiming for a realistic view, is not Chabrian’s aim.  Instead, her works tell a story—a story about hearth and home—a story about love.  One work (pictured above) invites the viewer to meander down a garden path past a white picket fence and borders of white and yellow daisies interspersed with sprays of lavender.  A shingled cottage beckons, its roof a jumble of dormers promising cozy bedroom nooks with views of the sea.  I imagine this to be someone’s treasured summer retreat—the scene of kite-flying carefree days,  beachcombing clam digs, and backyard cookouts. 

Season and landscape are often intimately linked in Chabrian’s work—they are visual cues that trigger poignant memories of home and reinforce our connection to place.  An example of such a work (pictured below) depicts a white clapboard colonial bathed in a speckled light filtering through autumnal-hued oaks.  Through the thinning tree line we capture of glimpse of nearby mountains.  The viewer is positioned at a considerable distance from the house—as if standing on the country road that borders the property line.  The distancing affords a somewhat removed view—a pictorial composition that implies a narrative.  One has stepped back to admire the site or has come upon it for the first time.  In either instance, the framing and stillness of the work suggests a halt—something important has caught the eye.  Perhaps the painting recalls the first time the owner came upon the house, or maybe the day the deed was signed.  Whatever the case, Chabrian's house portrait captures an enchanting moment—the air brisk and clean, the graceful lines of the house, the leafy surround, the distant peaks—all conspire to create a picture-perfect place to call home.

House portrait by Deborah Chabrian, watercolor, 9 x 12 inches

For further information about commissioning a house portrait by Deborah Chabrian, please e-mail us.  

Portraits, Inc. was founded in 1942 in New York on Park Avenue. Over its 70-year history, Portraits, Inc. has carefully assembled a select group of the world’s foremost portrait artists offering a range of styles and prices. Recognized as the industry leader, Portraits, Inc. provides expert guidance for discerning clients interested in commissioning fine art portraits.