Arts and Gardens

What makes a picture a portrait?

The print Red Adair looks abstract, with red stripes that seem to run out in small streams, against a blue and white background. As we look at it, the outline of the man appears in the vertical lines. Then we suddenly code something resembling facial features into the color patches. But it is abstract enough that we would not have recognized Adair on the street, if this portrait were all we had to go by. Is it just the name that makes this picture a portrait?

Ludvig Eikaas: Red Adair
Ludvig Eikaas: Red Adair
Alf E. Andresen

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Paul N. “Red” Adair (1915-2004) was an American oil well firefighter. During his long career he capped over 2000 fires in oil wells, both land-based and offshore. Adair became world famous in 1962 when he extinguished a fire at the Gassi Touil gas field in the Sahara desert. The fire, which was called the “Devil’s Cigarette Lighter” because it consisted of an almost 140 m high pillar of flame, raged for nearly half a year before Adair arrived and extinguished it. He survived his extremely hazardous occupation, and was 75 years old when he in 1991 helped extinguish the fires in Iraq in the wake of the Gulf War. He retired in 1993 as a very rich man.