What is Silhouetting?

an example silhouette

Silhouetting, also referred to as shadow portraits, were a widespread art practiced by a variety of artists in the first half of the 19th century, it seems however that that due to the rise of modern photography an end was brought to this refined and delicate form of photographic art. Here at silhouettes.co.uk we aim to bring the art of shadow portraits back to the 21st-century, creating bespoke and precision manufactured silhouette designs, that are that are suited to a modern way of living and design.

The art of silhouettes has its origin from traditional portrait and miniature painting. Early portrait pictures date can be found in Egyptian tombs, from where the knowledge, skill and craftsmanship got passed on through Greek, medieval and Georgian Period. It was the French minister, Etienne de Silhouette, who rose through the French political ranks thanks to the encouragement of Madame the pompadour, Mistress of Louis XV, and lend its name to this form of art. Étienne de Silhouette’s legacy as Treasury Chief is that of a penny pinching hostility, which people at the time associated with a shadow portrait, which was a cheap and inexpensive portrait. It wasn’t long before the name stuck and shadow portraits became known by its name silhouettes, that could be bought are only a few francs, making it available to both poor and rich.

Augustin Edouart, a French immigrant living in the England, popularised the arts of silhouetting in England and the US. He started of by advertising himself as the silhouettist, but soon discovered that the word silhouette was not popular among the English audience. Together with other professionals at time, he devised other words such as Skiagraphy and Shadowgraphy, to practice and make popular the art of silhouetting. Some profilists, marketed themselves as scissorgraphists, as they would cut out a silhouette image using a pair of scissors. The best known artists of the time include Edouart, Hubard and even Goethe was an enthusiastic silhouetist. Silhouettes developed to become a true fashion statement, that was not only a great success in England, but was also carried over into Russia and the United States. The silhouette movement flourished all the way during the Georgian period and into the late Victorian period, lending itself to many forms of artistic expression.

A silhouette can be painted, drawn, engraved or sometimes even created from plaster. It also encouraged the rise of miniatures mounted in rings, pins and other jewels. Before the advent of photography, it was the most inexpensive and novelty way to capture your image. Sadly, silhouetting is no longer an everyday art with nowadays silhouetting having become a unique skill and gift. Here at silhouettes.co.uk we hope to create an intricate and detailed personalised gift that can be cherished an enjoyed for decades to come.