On Portraiture

Portraiture and portrait painting has had deep meaning throughout my life. To bring another person to life in a painting or drawing is powerful and emotional. My exposure to portraits started long ago in Haarlem, The Netherlands, where my father Jaap Pander made sensitive portraits of us, his children. Consequently I started drawing my brothers and sisters at a young age. Shortly after the war, I was exposed to Rembrandt and the great Dutch portrait painters. Again, at the Rijksacademie there was great emphasis on drawing and painting fine portraits. In 1962 I painted a portrait of my friend Sonja Toebes. In 1964 I won the Therese van Duyl Schwarze award for portraiture in Amsterdam for this painting, now in the Henrietta Polak museum in Zutphen, The Netherlands. Upon arrival in the United States, I continued drawing people in all kinds of techniques, in sketchbooks as well as in more ambitious paintings. I also drew and painted many children, which since my own childhood experiences drawing my brothers and sisters is dear to me. As my reputation in this genre grew here in Portland I have been given the opportunity to paint quite a few luminaries, from C.S. Price, the old Oregon Painter, at Timberline Lodge to our current Governor John Kitzhaber.

I have always found great pleasure in portrait painting. I work from life and spend quality time with the individual, unless the portrait is posthumous, in which case I use any resources  and documentation available, as well as a life model. I often do background research to find out about the life and personality of the sitter. I always make preliminary studies in color with chalk and charcoal to familiarize myself with the person and vice versa so that when I start painting we are well acquainted with one another. My prices are on a sliding scale depending on the scope of the work and the size and purpose of the painting. I make an effort to be reasonable about pricing so that people can afford the work, be it a drawing, which often takes one sitting, a watercolor, which may take two or more, to an oil painting, which depending on the scope and scale may take ten or more sittings.

I try to be thoughtful and show people at their best without undo flattery as to have a good likeness and feeling for the person, but most of all strive for a beautiful drawing or painting. Keep in mind some of the finest paintings in the history of art are portraits, many of them commissions. Especially in the time of rampant photography, a carefully observed and handcrafted painting or drawing becomes ever more valuable. 

Henk Pander, July 6th 2014


Photograph (right) by Delores Pander: Henk Pander painting Oregon Governor Tom McCall, 1982

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