Our History

The seminar or conference study format, involving large numbers of participants — now widely emulated — was created and pioneered by The Portrait Institute, beginning in 1979 with its National Portrait Seminar.

The National Portrait Seminar
Originally an annual five-day study conference on professional portrait painting featuring demonstrations, panel discussions and special topic seminars. Presented first in a New York theatre and then at various hotel and resort venues across the country. 1979-1993. Attendance annually: 350 - 700.

The Portrait Institute at the Beckwith Residence in New York
Three years of private one-to-one mentoring, painting demonstrations, career workshops, lectures, competitions and national exhibitions, at the former J. Crroll Beckwith residence in the Renaissance Studios building. New York. 1996-1998.

The New York Portrait Artists Open Forum at Carnegie Hall
Presented in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, these presentations included the showing of recent portraits by leading artists, open question-and-answer sessions, and special tributes to prominent New York artists. 1994-1995.

The National Portrait Competition
Presented nine times, this competition invited entries from all portrait artists, distributing over $40,000 in cash awards plus, in later years, a New York exhibition of the principal winners. 1979-1995.

Private One-to-One Mentoring
For years the Portrait Institute offered one-to-one in-person, one-to-one critiques and instruction in studio sessions, painting from the live model. These sessions took place at the Renaissance Studios, the Carnegie Hall Studios, and at 225 West Fifty-Seventh Street. 1974-1996.

National Seminar Tours
John and Elizabeth Sanden presented their popular one-day seminars in major cities across the country. Regular locales included Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Orlando, New Orleans, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco. 1980-1984.

The Portrait Institute Correspondence Course
More than five hundred artists studied through the Portrait Institute Course, in which participating artists worked in their private studios, guided by audio instructional tapes and recorded critiques by John and Elizabeth Sanden and associated artists. 1981-1984.

Instructional Videos
The Portrait Institute has produced seven instructional videos and is actively producing additional titles. 1983 to present.

The Sargent Society
A lecture-demonstration series, presented at the Portrait Institute studios in New York, focused on the life and art of John Singer Sargent. 1996-1998.

John and Elizabeth Sanden have authored four books on portraiture: Painting the Head in Oil (Watson-Guptill Publications, 1976), Successful Portrait Painting (Watson-Guptill, 1981), Portraits From Life (North Light Books, 1999), and The Portraits of John Howard Sanden (Madison Square Press, 2000). The two earliest books are now out of print. Portraits From Life is available from The Portrait Institute or your local bookseller. The Portraits of John Howard Sanden will be available only from The Portrait Institute. Please use our Ordering page to obtain a copy of this book.