About Face’s weird, wistful portraits are a rebuttal to the selfie stick

Eight engrossing works from Nicholas Metivier Gallery’s ode to the art of portraiture

In the era of Instagram, when our phones are loaded up with blurry selfies of everyone we know, Nicholas Metivier Gallery’s latest exhibit is a poignant reminder of the art of portraiture. The show, called About Face, features paintings, drawings and photographs by 11 artists in as many styles. The Armenian-Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh, a late paragon of portrait art, masters light and shadow in his black-and-white pictures of the world’s most iconic personalities. Toronto-via-Tokyo painter Keita Morimoto’s dark, brooding images mix the techniques of old European masters with modern Japanese anime. And local artist Stephen Appleby-Barr paints ornate figures against poppy backgrounds. Some are eerily lifelike, others comically abstract, but each one is thoroughly captivating. Here, our favourites.

Yousuf Karsh
(Image: copyright estate of Yousuf Karsh)

The Armenian-Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh was one of the greatest portraitists of the 20th century. He shot painter Georgia O’Keeffe at her home in New Mexico.

Winston Churchill
(Image: copyright estate of Yousuf Karsh)

Karsh famously plucked the cigar from Winston Churchill’s mouth to catch him off guard before snapping this 1941 portrait.

Keita Morimoto
(Image courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery)

The Japanese-born Toronto artist Keita Morimoto draws inspiration from anime artists (like Hayao Miyazaki) and classicists (like Thomas Gainsborough).

Gordon Parks
(Image courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation)

Life magazine photographer Gordon Parks captured Red Jackson, a young Harlem gang leader, in 1948.

Stephen Appleby-Barr
(Image courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery)

Stephen Appleby-Barr was inspired by Napoleonic regalia for this strange, surreal piece.

Charles Bierk
(Image courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery)

Toronto artist Charles Bierk shoots each subject—including musician Taylor Kirk, seen here—then meticulously recreates every pore, hair and freckle in his massive photorealistic paintings.

Sebastião Salgado
(Image: Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas Images)

The Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado captured this accidental double portrait while documenting the construction of social housing on the outskirts of Guatemala City in 1978.

About Face. Jan. 7 to 30. Nicholas Metivier Gallery, 451 King St. W.,


Sign up for This City, our free newsletter about everything that matters right now in Toronto politics, sports, business, culture, society and more.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy.
You may unsubscribe at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


Big Stories

The Battle for Leslieville: Gentrification, opioids and murder in the city’s most divided neighbourhood
Deep Dives

The Battle for Leslieville: Gentrification, opioids and murder in the city’s most divided neighbourhood