The Portrait of Alex by Ronald Sherr

Ronald Sherr is an American portraiture artist who has painted many notable figures in U.S. history, including former presidents, justices, senators, and industry leaders. The subjects of his paintings are usually distinguished and poised, but his warm and inviting style creates an intimate connection between them and the viewer. The result is a unique portrait that is often rough around the edges and incredibly detailed in the expression of the face.

This oil portrait of young Alex draws the viewer’s eye in with broad, lively brushstrokes that get smaller and more nuanced around the boy’s eyes. We can see the numerous layers of work that went into the piece, from the initial chalk sketch all the way to the finest details of the boy’s hair. This transparency of the artistic process is a welcome respite from the often highly controlled world of fine art, as the viewer is encouraged to imagine his or her own theories for Alex’s circumstances.

The portrait seems to be imbued with symbolism, encouraging the emotional and intellectual participation of the viewer. We are made to question what the mirror beside the boy represents. It could indicate a hidden side of him, showing maturity and a departure from carefree adolescence. The boy’s shirt places him in any number of time periods – indeed, he seems almost ageless, making his piercing stare at the viewer all the more striking. Wisdom and youth coalesce in this portrait, questioning whether or not mortality truly is the harbinger of knowledge.

What do you think Alex is a symbol of?