The Last Portrait with Anais Grateau - Context Travel

The Last Portrait with Anais Grateau


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Art and the representation of those who passed away have been deeply connected since early civilizations. This seminar will explore the tradition of the last portrait and underline how this ritual reveals a lot about our relationship to death and about the memories we choose to keep of our loved ones and of the celebrities of our time.

This conversation will take us on a journey through time as we will talk about reconstructed human skulls found in the Middle East, often considered as the earliest evidence of ancestor worship, but also mummy portraits, death masks, and the practice of death photography during the Victorian era. We’ll learn how this tradition of the last portrait was reinterpreted in powerful ways by modern and contemporary artists such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Felix Gonzales-Torres.

While all the artworks we will discuss come from very different contexts, geographical areas, and time periods, they all weave a powerful connection between the living and those who passed away, suggesting in their own way art could be the ultimate form of immortality.

Led by an expert on art history, Anaïs Grateau, this interactive seminar will study the practice of the last portrait and how it played an instrumental part in the mourning process and the building of memory. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels to museums around the world, participants will come away with an increased understanding of this tradition that offers a reflection both intimate and poignant on our own mortality and on the everlasting power of images.

Anaïs Grateau is a French art historian now living in the US. She graduated from the Ecole du Louvre and worked as a curatorial assistant and as a guide for Context in Paris for many years. Since moving to Pittsburgh in 2015, she has taught art history, designing classes reflecting her areas of interest and expertise: modern and contemporary art, the representation of imaginary creatures in art, as well as the depiction of death in painting and sculpture. She is now the Preservation Coordinator for Archives and Special Collections at the University of Pittsburgh.

This conversation is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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