Art: Painted Faces

"I'd rather see a portrait of a dog that I know," said Samuel Johnson, "than all the allegorical paintings ... in the world." That preference is common enough to make portrait painting a profitable sideline for some artists and a posh profession for many. Last week, in an elegantly furnished Park Avenue gallery known as "Portraits, Inc.," sample portraits by 50 of the nation's top practitioners went on display.

Ranging from $300 to $6,000 in price, the paintings had an even greater range in quality. Among the best were solid, highly polished oils by such veteran academicians as Eugene Speicher and Gerald...

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