Trendspotting: Flea Market Portraits

There’s something inherently mysterious about vintage portraiture. Who are these people? What were their lives like and why did they have their picture painted? Often the only clues are what can be gleaned from the artwork—the setting and the subject’s clothing, hairstyle, facial expression, etc. Perhaps it’s that element of mystery that makes them attractive to designers and homeowners who are increasingly incorporating these antique finds into their homes. A vintage portrait can add gravitas, history, mood and a little something unexpected to spaces.

Where To Find

Antique paintings can be found at estate sales, antique and vintage shops, flea markets and online at sites like eBay, Etsy and Chairish. Hunt & Gather in southwest Minneapolis always seems to have a supply, particularly of more colorful mid-century portraits. H&B Gallery in Uptown has an assortment too and they also carry larger, older paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. Jonathan Campbell of H&B says they’ve seen an uptick in interest in vintage portraits especially for pieces from the early 20th century, a fact he attributes to the fact that more modern portrait subjects tend to be a little livelier and more relatable than the formal manner and opulent styles of earlier eras. Prices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand depending on condition, style and artist.

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How To Use

Collections of vintage portraits can be hung together or used singly to add variety to a gallery wall. Add smaller paintings to a bookshelf to create interest. Powder rooms, entryways and other more intimate spaces are good choices for single portraits.

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by Laurie Junker

Photo courtesy of Hunt & Gather and SFGIRLBYBAY


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