pixeLess Thursday presents ~ Silhouette Art



Johann Wolfgang von Goethe facing a grave monument, cut paper, 1780

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe facing a grave monument, cut paper, 1780


History/timeline of Silhouette as given by Silhouette Collectors Club

Alison Silhouette Artist from Shelley Revill on Vimeo.

Alison Russell is one of the Silhouette Collectors Club artists


Definition A Silhouette  is a portrait or scene depicted in an outline that has been filled in solid.

Types of Silhouette – In its strictest sense, a silhouette  is cut, either freehand, using the eye alone as a guide or by following lines that have been  either traced by the artist or drawn mechanically. Various means were developed to aid  the artist in getting an accurate likeness cast on paper: the camera obscura, chairs with  clamps to hold an object steady, devices to prevent candles from  wavering, machines that cut automatically as a  tracer was passed over the subject’s profile. One device, the Prosopographus, used  an automation to trace the profile. Some silhouettes were cut in reverse  i.e. White paper had a profile cut from it, the inner portion of which was  discarded, and the outer, negative, portion of  which was mounted on black paper (these are known are hollow-cuts).

Silhouettes were also painted, on  card or paper, again either in freehand or using some mechanical aids. More frequently they were done on  plaster, glass or ivory. When executed on glass, the work was  often backed by a medium such as wax or plaster/composition.

c. 600 – The Chinese were executing cut-paper  designs that are close in feeling to Silhouettes

c. 800 –  India developed a shadow theatre  that later spread to the Middle East and Europe

c. 1000 – Egyptians known to have being making  Shadow Puppets

1631 – Pantograph developed which enabled  accurate reductions that could be used in jewellery

c.1800 – Le Chat Noir, a Parisian Cafe,  featured elaborate shadow plays
1709 – Etienne de Silhouette (1709-67),  Controller-General in France, known for his tight financial policies amused himself by cutting portraits  from paper.

c.1750-c.1850 –  In the West the Silhouette enjoyed  its greatest popularity

1756 – 1821 – John Miers portraits on plaster have  an uncommon delicacy

1769 – 1861 – August Edouart dazzles us with his  technical virtuosity

1867-1939 – Arthur Rackham, the English  illustrator, executed 2 books in crisp, witty, silhouettes

Jan 1967 –  Jan 1970 –  The Silhouette Collectors Club was  started probably by Sue McKecknie between these dates


Traditional Silhouette portrait of the late 1800

Traditional Silhouette portrait of the late 1800




Silhouettes by Hand shares a brief history about the silhouette HERE


About Tim Holtz




Methods vary from cutting, glass, ivory, painting, porcelain, and now photography

Silhouette on Card - process 2

I stumbled across this great website which gives 250 years of British history of Silhouettes. Definitely worth a look. HERE


People are very captivated by silhouettes. They have lasted the tests of time. Being able to look at today’s digital creations and then look at where they originate from brings a new love and respect for this particular art technique.



by Laura Kok

By phil2001 at DeviantArt

By phil2001 at DeviantArt

About The Author

Photographer all her life - professionally since 2006. Dabbled in Digital Art & Graphic Design since 2006. Founder and co owner of pixeLobby Owner of CJ Wilkes Photography Co owner of Wilkerson Art Co owner of Medeek Design & Engineering Wife to Nathaniel P Wilkerson and Mother to 5 children.