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SELF PORTRAIT Powered By Docstoc
					                         SELF PORTRAIT
                      17 February – 14 May 2006

                               Exhibition Text Panels

‘… it seems that everything is alive and emerging from the panel. They are
mirrors. They are mirrors, no! They are not paintings …’
artist and writer Karel van Mander 1604

Merging the roles of artist, subject and viewer, the self-portrait offers a most
intimate encounter with artistic creativity and consciousness.

Self-portraiture developed in Europe as a significant and publicly recognised part
of an artist’s work from the late 15th and early 16th centuries. There are three
main reasons for this: technical improvements in glassmaking, which allowed flat
mirrors of a reasonable size to become generally available; the perfection of oil
painting as a technique, which allowed artists to paint in the studio rather than
directly onto the walls of churches and palaces, and to capture with lifelike
brilliance the textures of human flesh; and the changing status of the artist, from
artisan to member of the social and intellectual elite, making the individual artist a
worthy subject for portraiture.

Despite 500 years of social, political and technological change since then, the
self-portrait painted in oils has remained a vital and enduringly popular form of
artistic expression.

Peter Paul Rubens                                      André Derain
1577-1640                                              1880-1954
Self portrait 1623                                     Self portrait in studio c1903
oil on canvas                                          oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra                National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

This picture is an autograph example (by his own       Derain was a complex and elusive character who
hand, not a workshop production) of the artist's       frequently changed his style. As a young man he
most widely disseminated self-portrait. By the         painted with Maurice de Vlaminck at Chatou, a
1620s when Rubens painted it, his work was in          small town on the River Seine just outside Paris.
demand internationally, and he 'had grown so rich      He painted this picture during his period of
by his profession that he appeared everywhere not      military service, probably while on leave in
like a painter but a great cavalier'. Rubens sent      Chatou. Using staccato, angular shapes and bold
another version of this portrait, painted on panel,    slashes of the brush, he applied his colours in
to Charles I, then Prince of Wales, for the Royal      thick, heavy streaks. From their first meeting
Collection in London. This version, painted on         around 1900, Derain and Matisse had 'responded
canvas, he kept in his possession until 1628, when     to an answering boldness in each other'. In this
he sent it as a gift to his friend, the renowned       youthful self-portrait Derain records himself
humanist scholar Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc.      actively at work, drawing attention to the
Such an elegantly dressed and exquisitely              dynamism of his matador-like painting stance, as
rendered self-portrayal made an appropriate gift in    if to underline his artistic identity as a 'combative'
courtly and humanist circles. Rubens avoids            modernist rather than the combat soldier dictated
explicit reference to the working painter,             by fate.
concealing his hands as befits the image of a
perfect gentleman. The focus of the composition
is the central right eye, which gives the artist the   Studio of Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn
aloof, acute look of a sovereign.                      1606–69
                                                       Rembrandt (1660s)
                                                       oil on canvas
Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)                 The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Self portrait c1624-26                                 This painting is an original work from
oil on canvas                                          Rembrandt’s studio but was not painted by
Private collection New York                            Rembrandt himself. The canvas comes from the
                                                       same bolt as an accepted Rembrandt (the Flora in
The nickname Guercino means 'squinter', but this       the Metropolitan Museum) and is painted on a
did not prevent Barbieri from having an extremely      kind of ground only used in his studio. The style
successful career. A native of Cento in the region     is evocative of Rembrandt’s late manner: the
of Emilia in northern Italy, Guercino was in Rome      bulbous nose, shadowed eyes and working apparel
from1621-23 , summoned there by Pope Gregory           are immediately familiar and the pose and gaze
XV. From the style and apparent age of the figure,     seem to refer to a mirror. A ‘self-portrait’ of one
this self-portrait dates to the period soon after      artist by another seems a contradiction in terms.
Guercino returned to Cento from Rome. With             Yet this ‘Rembrandt’ was most probably painted
deceptive simplicity, using a restricted palette of    by a pupil. Produced as part of the training
black, white, red and yellow, Guercino has made        process and most likely completed under
the squint from which he took his name into a          Rembrandt’s supervision, it provided a source of
sign of creative individuality. The artfully placed    income and an unconventional means of further
shadow across his eyes suggests a self-                promoting Rembrandt’s own image, authority and
examination, while the quiet pose, hands clasped       ‘authenticity’ of style.
as if in prayer, holding a loaded palette and
brushes, reinforces the idea of a meditative pause
during the process of creation. The fluent
virtuosity of his sketchy brushwork and his
emphasis of the mental over the manual aspects of
his profession epitomise the skill on which
Guercino's reputation was built

Gerlach Flicke                                        Giovanni Battista Salvi, ‘Sassoferrato’
c1495–1558                                            1609–85
Self-portrait with Henry Strangwish (or               Self-portrait c1650
Stangways) 1554                                       oil on canvas
diptych; oil on paper or vellum laid on panel         Galleria degli Uffizi, Collezione degli Autoritratti,
National Portrait Gallery, London                     Firenze

This is believed to be the earliest surviving self-   Sassoferrato took his name from his native town
portrait in oils produced in England. Painted by      in northern Italy. His immaculate paintings of the
the German émigré artist Gerlach Flicke in a          Virgin Mary were popular during his lifetime and
format often used for devotional paintings, it        remain archetypical devotional images. By
depicts Flicke and his friend Strangwish, an          reflecting on his appearance in an unblemished
English gentleman privateer; both were in prison      mirror, symbolising the purity of the Virgin,
at the time. In accordance with humanist ideals of    Sassoferrato visualised an inner, spiritual persona.
friendship, the two men are represented as alter      He exploited oil paint’s mirror-like finish to
egos: the neat, greying painter turns towards the     suggest that this image was not only true, but
younger man. Flicke holds a palette while             divinely created. Using his trademark ultramarine
Strangwish plays the lute, an aristocratic            blue, Sassoferrato thus presented himself as a
instrument associated with love. The Latin            character within his own devotional world. In its
inscription above Flicke’s head implies that he       idealisation, saturated colour and close-up view,
may have been facing the death sentence, stating      the portrait is reminiscent of Italian Renaissance
that he has produced his self-portrait from a         paintings. Yet the directness of expression,
mirror as a memento for his ‘dear friends that they   enamel-like finish and intense colour also conjure
might have something by which to remember him         up an almost photographic effect.
after his death’.

                                                      William Hogarth
Cristofano Allori                                     1697–1764
1577–1621                                             Self-portrait c1757
Judith with the head of Holofernes 1613               oil on canvas
oil on canvas                                         National Portrait Gallery, London
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen
                                                      William Hogarth achieved success with his moral
Cristofano Allori was taught by his father            or comic ‘histories’, such as A rake’s progress
Alessandro (whose self-portrait is also in this       (1732–34), satirising contemporary life.
exhibition) but reacted against his father’s          Nevertheless, he aspired to recognition by the
polished style. In Rome Cristofano associated         Establishment and in 1753 published a theoretical
with Artemisia Gentileschi and became a follower      treatise entitled The analysis of beauty. In 1757 he
of Caravaggio, who like him rejected gentlemanly      was appointed sergeant-painter to King George II.
norms in favour of intense and turbulent              In this self-portrait of the same year, the artist,
experience. This celebrated composition               although ostensibly absorbed in his work, makes
represents a scene from the biblical Apocrypha in     bold claims for his art that reach beyond the
which the Jewish widow Judith of Bethulia             picture’s modest size and appearance. Sketched
beheads the Assyrian general, Holofernes. The         on the canvas is Thalia, the muse of comedy,
model for the gorgeous Judith was apparently          holding a book and a mask.
Allori’s lover, while Holofernes, decapitated but
still suffering, is a ghastly mask for Allori
himself. Such role-play simultaneously reveals,
dramatises and disguises the artist’s presence in
his work.

Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun                           James McNeill Whistler
1755–1842                                               1834–1903
Self-portrait in a straw hat after 1782                 Gold and brown: self-portrait c1896–98
oil on canvas                                           oil on canvas
The National Gallery, London                            National Gallery of Art, Washington, gift of Edith
                                                        Stuyvesant Gerry
French artist Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun was
a prolific society painter who, by the age of 15,       American-born artist James McNeill Whistler was
had begun to support her family through sales of        trained in France but spent much of his working
her work. In 1783 Marie Antoinette secured her          life in England. Painted in his London studio, this
entry into the Académie Royale against                  shadowy Rembrandtesque late self-portrait evokes
considerable opposition. This is one of over 20         the most harrowing period of Whistler’s life,
known self-portraits, all characterised by the          when after an illness his wife Beatrice died in
freshness, attractiveness and seeming naturalness       1896. A friend recalls the artist in those years: ‘I
for which her work was renowned. It is based on         never saw anyone so feverishly alive as this little,
Rubens’s Le Chapeau de Paille of c1622–25 now           old man, with his bright withered cheeks, over
in the National Gallery, London, which Lebrun           which the skin was drawn tightly, his darting eyes
encountered in the Low Countries in 1781. Her           … his bitter and subtle mouth, and above all, his
visual homage to a work then supposed to                exquisite hands, never at rest … every finger alive
represent Rubens’s wife acknowledged her artistic       to the tips… He was proud of his hands and they
allegiance to this master and to the ‘Rubéniste’        were never out of sight.’
aesthetic of colour as an integral part of lifelike
imitation. Indeed, Vigée-Lebrun herself became
known as ‘Madame Rubens’. More challengingly,           Sidney Nolan
she has taken up the brushes to assume the              1917–92
position of the master himself.                         Self-portrait 1943
                                                        synthetic polymer on canvas on hardboard
                                                        Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with
Vincent van Gogh                                        funds
1853–90                                                 provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South
Self-portrait with felt hat 1888                        Wales 1997
oil on canvas
Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Vincent van                  Australian artist Sidney Nolan began his career in
Gogh Foundation)                                        Melbourne in 1938 at the age of 21. He was 26
                                                        when he painted this self-portrait while stationed
Dutch-born painter Vincent van Gogh moved to            on military service at Dimboola, in the flat wheat-
Paris in 1886, and over the next two years              growing district of western Victoria. It was the
produced more than 20 self-portraits. Impassioned       first time Nolan depicted himself in the role of
by his experiments with impressionist painting          artist. Echoes of his life as a soldier resonate in
techniques, he said he wanted ‘to use colour            this boldly flat and frontal image of an artist-
arbitrarily to express myself forcibly’. The            warrior. He grasps a palette like a shield and his
staccato brushwork introduces a note of                 brushes like spears, with his forehead ‘war-
discordant energy into this self-portrait, which        painted’ in streaks of primary colour. It is the
was one of the last he painted in Paris. The artist’s   image of an iconic outsider and individualist.
face seems to record his intense self-scrutiny. His
self-portraits, like Rembrandt’s before him, could
mask private concerns as often as they mirrored
them. The year before his death van Gogh wrote
from the asylum at St Remy, ‘It is difficult to
know yourself, but it isn’t easy to paint yourself

Charley Toorop                                         Alessandro Allori
1891–1955                                              1535–1607
Self-portrait with Winter Branches                     Self-portrait c1555
(Zelfportret met wintertakken) 1944–45                 oil on canvas
oil on canvas                                          Galleria degli Uffizi, Collezione degli Autoritratti,
Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands             Firenze

Charley Toorop was born into a dynasty of Dutch        Allesandro Allori was the adopted son and pupil
artists and although she had no formal training,       of the Florentine court painter Agnolo Bronzino,
she learnt about painting from her father. Toorop      whose refined style and characteristic facial type
lived in various parts of the Netherlands and the      Allori emulates here. This is an early example of a
industrial areas of Belgium. She began to work in      new kind of self-portrait, presenting the painter at
the manner of Vincent van Gogh and                     work rather than in the honorific pose of a
subsequently evolved a form of socialist realism       gentleman. Allori portrays himself observing
that included scenes of industrial life as well as a   himself looking at himself in a mirror, his
number of portraits of mental patients. This self-     delicately poised brush pointing to a painting that
portrait has a tough, stern quality, highlighted by    remains hidden from view. The ignoble
the wintry black tracery of twigs behind her. It       connotations of manual labour are effaced by the
also suggests the harsh circumstances of occupied      artist’s intense mental and spiritual reflection. His
Holland in the last year of World War II.              direct experience of the world is connected to an
                                                       ideal image that cannot be seen and remains
                                                       always a work-in-progress.
Gerhard Richter
Self-portrait 1996                                     Sofonisba Anguissola
oil on linen                                           c1532–1625
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Jo         Self-portrait at the easel painting a devotional
Carole                                                 panel 1556
and Ronald S Lauder and Committee on Painting          oil on canvas
and                                                    Muzeum-Zamek, Lancut, Poland
Sculpture Funds 1996
                                                       Sofonisba Anguissola’s numerous, inventive self-
Gerhard Richter was born in Dresden in 1932 and        portraits, mostly painted before she left her native
first studied art at the Kunstakademie in Dresden,     Cremona to join the Spanish Habsburg court,
where he learnt to copy realistic and romantic         were a means of self-promotion. In this self-
styles. In 1959 he saw works by Jackson Pollock        portrait the new theme of the artist at work is
at the Documenta exhibition in Kassal, and             ingeniously related to the legend that St Luke the
prompted by this experience, Richter moved             Evangelist painted the first portrait of the Virgin
permanently from Eastern Germany just before           Mary. Anguissola boldly assumes the masculine
the Berlin Wall was built. He continued his            role of St Luke, the patron saint of artists, and
studies in Düsseldorf, where he met artist Joseph      exploits the traditional symbolism of the Virgin
Beuys. Richter’s early paintings were like pop art     Mary as an immaculate mirror. This further
in style, but with a political edge. His subject       ‘reflection’ transforms the portrait of a virtuous
matter was often based on newspaper photographs        noblewoman into an image of natural creativity –
or surveillance images taken from a moving car,        the vibrant picture of the ideal mother with her
effectively blurring the distinction between           child.
realism and abstraction. In this self-portrait he
returns to the romantic imagery of his youth –
although abstracted the artist is seen as if from a
distance or ‘through a glass darkly’.

Lavinia Fontana                                         Jacob Jordaens
1552–1614                                               1593–1678
Self-portrait at the clavichord with a servant          The family of the artist c1621
1577                                                    oil on canvas
oil on canvas                                           Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, Roma
                                                        The Antwerp painter Jacob Jordaens translated
Born in Bologna and trained by her father               Rubens’ visual language into an exuberant,
Prospero, Lavinia Fontana was well-versed in the        everyday idiom. This unusually restrained family
arts and letters. Music was considered a courtly        portrait may have commemorated Jordaens’
accomplishment suited to women, and helped to           inauguration as dean of the Painters’ Guild of St
enhance the status of painting by defining the          Luke in 1621. The gentlemanly stance is
hand as a noble instrument rather than a                authoritative, the lute by his side a means to
mechanical tool. Music is also the food of love         harmonise and regulate rather than actively
and this picture probably commemorated                  seduce. The striking resemblance between the
Fontana’s marriage, while another version in the        artist’s wife Catharina, daughter of his master
famous Uffizi collection of self-portraits              Adam van Noort, and her first child Elizabeth
advertised the young woman’s skills to a wider          links family likeness with artistic imitation. The
clientele. Fontana, a portraitist who modelled          standing woman is presumably a maidservant but,
herself on Sofonisba Anguissola, emphasised the         with her red dress and overflowing basket, may
respectable lineage and chaste virtue of her female     also represent a personification of fertile Nature.
subjects.                                               The picture proposes a loving, productive
                                                        marriage between the material world and realms
                                                        of imagination and desire.
Annibale Carracci
Self-portrait on Easel in Workshop c1605                Judith Leyster
oil on wood                                             1609–60
Galleria degli Uffizi, Collezione degli Autoritratti,   Self-portrait c1630
Firenze                                                 oil on canvas
                                                        National Gallery of Art, Washington,
Annibale Carracci’s crowning achievement was            Gift of Mr and Mrs Robert Woods Bliss
painting the great Farnese ceiling in Rome. The
son of a Bolognese tailor, he was praised by            Unlike many women artists, Judith Leyster lacked
theorists for reconciling naturalism with classical     an artistic or elevated background, but in 1647–48
ideals but in contrast to many gentlemen painters,      was praised as a ‘leading star’ of her hometown of
he advised artists not to ‘start taking on grand airs   Haarlem. This, her only known self-portrait, was
beyond what is warranted by one’s own natural           intended to show off her skills to prospective
circumstances’. To Michelangelo’s claim that ‘we        customers, and was perhaps her admission piece
paint with our brain, not with our hands’ he            to the Painters’ Guild of St Luke. Her own portrait
apparently responded, ‘we painters have to speak        isas refined as any client might desire. The
with our hands.’ This picture presents the artist at    laughing fiddler, more sketchily depicted on the
one remove, in a painting within a painting,            panel, is a motif in one of her genre paintings. The
framed by the scene of its production. Though           theatrical, bawdy musician is recognisable as a
symbolically disembodied and dismembered, the           comic alter ego of the painter herself.
artist remains present in the material traces
created with his hands.

Gerrit Dou                                             Pieter-Jacobsz van Laer
1613–75                                                1599–c1642
Self-portrait 1635–38                                  Self-portrait 1638–99
oil on panel                                           oil on canvas
Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum                      Private Collection, New York

This is among the earliest of about 12 self-           Pieter-Jacobsz van Laer was the leader of the
portraits by the renowned Leiden ‘fine painter’        ‘Bentveughels’ (birds of a feather), a band of
and pupil of Rembrandt, Gerrit Dou. The                northern European artists in Rome that challenged
gentlemanly figure is similar in colouring, apparel    the Establishment. They painted the city’s street
and pose to Rembrandt’s self-portraits of the          life, and their initiation ceremonies involved
1630s but Dou appears in a palatial basilica           drunken parties, justified by ideas of creative
holding his tools. The exquisite surfaces,             madness and poetic inspiration founded in the
combined with the slightly bubble-like spatial         ecstatic worship of the wine god Bacchus. Here
illusion, also differ from Rembrandt and were          van Laer surrounds himself with occult
possibly produced using a magnifying lens. In the      paraphernalia, used to transform base matter into
foreground the baleful gaze of a plaster cast draws    something of value. Rejecting honourable self-
a connection between the sitter’s face and a mask,     representation, van Laer wittily replaces the artist
a symbol of Painting. This relates the theme of        at work with a practising magician and mockingly
surface and depth to a question central to             represents the respected form of the vanitas still
portraiture: does external appearance provide          life as a scene of sorcery. However, the skeletal
access to the interior or self, or is it a deceptive   claws on the right turn the joke into a nightmare.
façade using conventional signs to create an
outward facing identity?
                                                       Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
Artemisia Gentileschi                                  Self-portrait c1645
1593–1652                                              oil on canvas
Self-portrait as the allegory of Painting (Self-       Galleria degli Uffizi, Collezione degli Autoritratti,
portrait as La Pittura) 1638–39                        Firenze
oil on canvas
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen                          Painted by Velázquez at the age of about 45, this
                                                       self-portrait illustrates his social ambitions for
Artemisia Gentileschi was trained by her father        distinction at the court of Phillip IV of Spain,
Orazio while he was a follower of Caravaggio.          where he was principal court painter. There is no
She pursued her career in Florence, Naples, Rome       explicit reference to the artist’s profession here;
and London. When she was 19 the art                    instead, a hand gesture draws attention to the keys
entrepreneur Agostino Tassi was convicted of her       of the office of Royal Chamberlain and the
rape. Much of Artemisia’s subsequent work seems        martial stance and sword implicitly claim
to refer to this episode, in biblical scenes of        membership of the hereditary nobility. Velázquez
female heroism and vengeance. In this self-            coveted a knighthood and in the year before his
portrait, painted in her mid 40s, Gentileschi          death was finally admitted into the Order of
appears as a youthful ‘Pittura’, the female            Santiago.
personification of Painting described in Cesare
Ripa’s Iconologia, an influential dictionary
published in Rome in 1593. Through this inspired
device, she identifies directly with Painting,
subverting contemporary ideas of an implicitly
masculine intellect acting upon passive, implicitly
feminine, matter.

Salvator Rosa                                           Adriaen van de Werff
1615–73                                                 1659–1722
Self-portrait c1645                                     Self-portrait with wife and daughter 1697
oil on canvas                                           oil on canvas
The National Gallery, London                            Galleria degli Uffizi, Collezione degli Autoritratti,
Salvator Rosa was a painter of marine and battle
scenes, wild landscapes, and visions of demons          In 1718 the ‘fine painter’ Adriaen van der Werff
and witches as well as an accomplished poet,            was described as the greatest Dutch artist. He
actor, satirist and musician. He assumed the role       apparently painted this self-portrait for the Elector
of a moral philosopher, asserting the lofty aims of     Palatine on being appointed his court artist in
painting and scorning the northern ‘low-life’           1696. A humanist claim that ‘art is born of love’
painters in Rome such as Pieter-Jacobsz van Laer.       was frequently represented in Dutch art by
In this self-portrait he presents himself as an         portraits of artists together with their spouses.
outsider, self-consciously engaged with death and       Here the ‘picture within a picture’ is a portrait of
immortality. The Latin dictum, inscribed on             the artist’s wife and daughter. However, the
something resembling both a tombstone and a             woman is not only the painter’s muse and natural
painter’s panel, advises the artist-philosopher to      inspiration, but also a manifestation of his
speak only if his speech is better than silence. A      cultivated imagination. The mask around her neck
companion picture is believed to represent the          is an attribute of Pittura, the allegorical
painter’s mistress as Poetry, alluding to the           personification of Painting. The child, like the
humanist parallel between the two arts. Both            work of art itself, is a product of their union.
Painter and Poetry transfix their viewers, reducing
them to silence with an intransigent stare.
                                                        Johann Zoffany
Johannes Gumpp                                          Self-portrait (with hourglass and skull) c1776
Self-portrait 1646?                                     oil on panel
oil on canvas                                           Galleria degli Uffizi, Collezione degli Autoritratti,
Galleria degli Uffizi, Collezione degli Autoritratti,   Firenze
                                                        The German émigré Johann Zoffany made his
Inconsistencies between the inscribed age and           reputation in London through conversation pieces
date and the scant biographical data concerning         and theatrical portraits. In 1772 Queen Charlotte
‘Johannes Gumpp’, an artist of Austrian origin,         sent him to Florence, where he lived the high life.
make it uncertain which family member painted           This self-portrait dramatises his personal tragedy
this work. The artist’s face is accessible only         and guilt as a devout Catholic relating to the
indirectly, as ‘reflected’ in the mirror to the left    accidental death of his young son following his
and as ‘produced’ on the canvas to the right.           remarriage. Dressed in a luxurious coat, he puts a
Moreover it is the point of view of the observer,       picture of The temptation of St Antony behind him
rather than the artist, that brings these self-         and faces a statue of a flayed human figure.
representations together: although the image we         However the statue, book, palette and three nudes
see mirrored closely matches the portrait in            also evoke a classical art education. Perhaps the
progress, the ‘real’ artist would actually view his     painter’s smile, echoed by the grinning skull,
face in the mirror straight on. The manipulation of     indicate an ironic perspective that finds meaning
perspectives exposes the portrait’s claim to            in a tragic world through art. The hourglass draws
documentary truth as a clever deceit, and               attention to the ambiguous Latin inscription,
dramatises the parts played in acquiring self-          which translates as: ‘art lives long yet life is
knowledge by seeing oneself and being seen,             short’.
knowing oneself and being known.

Paul Cézanne                                         Paula Modersohn-Becker
1839–1906                                            1876–1907
Self-portrait c1880                                  Self-portrait 1906
oil on canvas                                        oil on cardboard
The National Gallery, London                         Haubrich Collection, Museum Ludwig, Cologne

One of the most celebrated of the post-              The German-born artist Paula Modersohn-Becker
impressionist painters, Paul Cézanne painted         began her career in 1898 by joining an artists’
many self-portraits as well as his more famous       colony at Worpswede near Bremen. For a year
abstracted studies of landscapes in southern         before her premature death in 1907, she settled in
France. This is one of the most celebrated of his    Paris, making her boldest strides towards an
self-portraits, painted when he was about 50 years   original artistic identity. In 1906 she produced
old. Although the painting is quite small,           several of her most powerful self-portraits,
Cézanne’s rugged square brushstrokes invest the      characteristically treating her face as if it were a
work with a sense of density and monumentality.      mask by highlighting her large eyes and
The colour structure is complex and dynamic and      simplifying the broad planes of her nose, forehead
Cézanne has invented intricate, ingenious marks      and cheekbones. Her self-portraits were
to create a balanced, harmonised composition,        influenced by Cézanne, van Gogh and Gauguin,
through which in his own words, ‘the whole thing     as well as the Romano-Egyptian mummy portraits
is put in as much rapport as possible’.              she studied in the Louvre. As her friend Rainer
                                                     Maria Rilke wrote, she painted herself ‘moulded
                                                     from inside’.
Lovis Corinth
Self-portrait with model June 1903                   Suzanne Valadon
oil on canvas                                        1865–1938
Kunsthaus Zürich                                     The blue room (La chambre bleue) 1923
                                                     oil on canvas
Lovis Corinth studied at the Königsberg, Munich      Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Musée national
and Antwerp academies before finally entering        d'art moderne
the Académie Julien in Paris in 1884. In Antwerp
he formed a great admiration for the painting of     Born Marie-Clémentine Valadon, the daughter of
Rubens, Jordaens and Rembrandt, and many of          a domestic labourer, Suzanne Valadon began her
his later paintings hark back to Rubens in           career as an artists’ model in Montmartre in Paris
particular. He then moved to Berlin, where he        in the 1880s. Determined to become an artist
encountered the symbolist work of Arnold             herself, she learnt her craft by observing her
Böcklin, Hans Thoma and Max Klinger. Corinth         employers when she posed for them. In 1894
was a prolific self-portraitist with no fewer than   Degas, her first patron, purchased examples of her
42 recorded paintings of himself. In this work,      early work from a Paris Salon. La chambre bleue
Corinth looks over his wife Charlotte’s shoulder     is one of Valadon’s most celebrated mature
at their reflection in the mirror and beyond, to     works. Believed to be an imaginative rather than a
meet the eyes of the viewer. He holds his palette    literal self-portrait, it commemorates her dual role
in the hand that protectively enfolds her naked      as an artists’model and an independent creator,
shoulder, while his other hand is poised to          alluding ironically to Manet’s Olympia and to the
continue applying paint to the plane that is both    tradition of representing the ‘odalisque’ (harem
mirror and canvas.                                   woman) in French art.

Edward Hopper                                            Frida Kahlo
1882–1968                                                1907–54
Self-portrait 1925–30                                    Self-portrait ‘The Frame’ c1937–38
oil on canvas                                            oil on aluminium on glass
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York,                Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Musée national
Josephine N Hopper Bequest                               d'art moderne

Certain paintings by Edward Hopper have become           Frida Kahlo began her career as an artist while
modern American icons. Between 1900 and the              convalescing after a horrific bus accident in
mid 1920s he made several self-portraits before          Mexico City in 1925. The accident left her in pain
creating his more famous images of American              for the rest of her life and a large number of her
buildings, landscapes and cityscapes. This is his        self-portraits explore this experience. Her
first oil self-portrait in his mature style. He          marriage to the great Mexican social realist Diego
presents himself as a reserved, introspective,           Rivera was also an important influence on
unpretentiously dressed figure with wary eyes and        Kahlo’s life and art. She adopted a palette and
a determined chin. Interestingly, he does not            style that owed as much to traditional Mexican
directly identify himself as an artist but rather as a   retablo painting as to European modernism. This
character within one of his urban scenes.                self-portrait resembles a Catholic memorial, yet
                                                         uses joyful colours, typifying Mexican attitudes to
                                                         death. It also looks like an ex voto painting, which
Stanley Spencer                                          is a form of intercession, a prayer for healing or
1891–1959                                                relief from suffering. Kahlo wrote, ‘People
Double nude portrait: the artist and his second          thought I was a Surrealist. That’s not right. I have
wife 1937                                                never painted dreams. What I represented was my
oil on canvas                                            own reality’.
Tate, purchased 1974

Stanley Spencer studied at the Slade School of           Pierre Bonnard
Fine Art in London from 1908, where he attended          1867–1947
lectures by Roger Fry and learnt about post-             Self-portrait c1938–40
impressionism, and in particular Gauguin and the         oil on canvas
symbolists. He also shared Fry’s interest in             Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1972
medieval European painting and had a strong
attachment to the solid, earthy figures of Giotto.       A founding member of the French Nabi
Spencer painted a number of important self-              movement and a radiant colourist, Pierre Bonnard
portraits, full face, but in this painting, also         painted almost a dozen self-portraits, most of
known as The leg of mutton nude, Spencer shows           them depicting the introspective artist in later life.
himself crouching over his second wife Patricia          He was fascinated by the possibilities of mirror
Preece. The conjunction of Spencer’s                     reflections and exploited them for their
uncompromising view of life and his painterly            tantalisingly oblique glimpses into his private
approach make this particular painting an                realm. This iridescent self-portrait dates to the
important precursor to self-portraits by Francis         period of the German occupation in France, when
Bacon and Lucian Freud.                                  the 73-year-old-painter was living in Le Cannet
                                                         near Cannes. He depicts himself in deep
                                                         concentration, his desire to understand and fulfil
                                                         as an artist undiminished. Bonnard’s late self-
                                                         portraits defied the climate of the times. He wrote,
                                                         ‘I am working a lot, immersed more and more
                                                         deeply in this outdated passion for painting’.

Lucian Freud                                           Georg Baselitz
b1922                                                  b1938
Interior with hand mirror (self-portrait) 1967         Mannlicher Akt – Fingermalerei May–July
oil on canvas                                          1973
Private collection                                     oil on canvas
                                                       Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg and Paris
Lucian Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 and
moved to England with his family in 1933 when          Georg Baselitz was born in eastern Germany but
the Third Reich came to power. From his early          moved to West Berlin to study at the Berlin
paintings and drawings, made during the war            College for Visual Arts in 1957. He was one of
years, he emerged as a strangely compelling            the postwar generation of artists who looked back
young surrealist. After 1945 however, he began         to expressionism and the Neue Sachlichkeit as an
his quest for a form of realism in which paint         authentic moment in German art, banned by the
constituted the substantial world. Freud has           Third Reich. Subsequent exposure to exhibitions
dedicated most of his career since then to             of abstract expressionism from the USA modified
depicting the naked body, initially female but later   this early influence. In this self-portrait expressive
male nudes as well. His subject matter, like           strokes of the brush are replaced by the sensuality
Francis Bacon’s, is always drawn from his circle       of oil paint, applied with the artist’s fingers.
of friends and acquaintances and throughout his        Characteristically the image is inverted, placing
life he has painted himself. He has said of his        greater emphasis on the painterly qualities of the
work, ‘It is about my self and my surroundings. I      work. The artist’s likeness is presented in
work from people that interest me and that I care      complete synchronicity with his stylistic signature
about’. In this small but compelling picture, Freud    and the physical trace of his body.
plays on the idea of the window and the mirror as
a means of knowing the self.
                                                       Marlene Dumas
Francis Bacon                                          Evil is banal (het kwaad is banal) 1984
1909–92                                                oil on canvas
Self-portrait 1971                                     Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
oil on canvas
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Musée national         Born in South Africa in 1953, Marlene Dumas
d'art moderne                                          grew up under the Apartheid regime, making her
                                                       very aware of issues of race and social justice. In
Born in Dublin, Francis Bacon arrived in London        1976 she moved to Holland, where she studied
in 1928. Encouraged by the Australian artist Roy       painting and, later, psychology. Like Francis
de Maistre, Bacon took up painting and in 1933         Bacon, Dumas prefers to work with images from
one of his works was reproduced in Herbert             newspapers and magazines, and avoids using live
Read’s book Art now. Most of Bacon’s mature            models. Her works also have a strong, tactile
paintings were figure compositions, often              impact. In 1984 Dumas painted this self-portrait,
including portraits of his close circle of friends     with its averted gaze and strange and disturbing
and colleagues, as well as many self-portraits. He     title. ‘Evil is banal’ may be understood, in part at
is best known for dramatic fragmentation of the        least, to refer to her upbringing under Apartheid.
body and rapid gestures made with a broad brush
or smeared with a piece of cloth, and occasionally
even splashed directly from the can. In this
intense self-portrait, his characteristic painting
style stands in for his presence as strongly as the
image itself. The face functions as both a mask
and an expression of interior feeling. Bacon said,
‘I want to try and get to the raw sensation.’

Leon Kossoff                                          Jenny Saville
b1926                                                 b1970
Self-portrait with Christ Church 1989                 Juncture 1994
oil on board                                          oil on canvas
Private collection, courtesy LA Louver Gallery,       Marguerite & Robert Hoffman
Venice, California
                                                      Jenny Saville studied at the Glasgow School of
Leon Kossoff lives and works in London and,           Art, where she completed her studies in 1992.
along with Frank Auerbach, was associated with        Talking about her own commitment to painterly
artists exhibiting at London’s Beaux Art Gallery      quality she says, ‘de Kooning is my main man
in the 1950s and 60s. Kossoff’s work reflects his     really, because he just did everything you can do
immediate environment, friends and family. In         with paint. He reversed it, dripped it, and scraped
Self-portrait with Christ Church, he paints himself   it. But I want to hold on to a certain amount of
in front of the church at Spitalfields, a building    reality’. It is significant that Saville mentions de
which Kossoff knew as a child and has fascinated      Kooning because of his notorious mutilation of
him ever since. The figure fills the canvas to the    the female form. Her own figures are a little
point of exceeding it, his hand raised with the       monstrous and often depicted from unusual
index finger extended right to the edge. The image    angles, perhaps to counter the masculine gaze.
is captured in the movement of the paint: a rich,     Saville’s use of a photograph rather than a mirror
complex surface which also vividly preserves the      to create this picture of herself has enabled her to
artist’s presence.                                    turn away from traditional conventions of self-

Richard Hamilton
b1922                                                 Francis Newton Souza
Four self-portraits – 05.3.81 1990                    1924–2002
Anthony d'Offay, London                               Self-portrait 1961
oil and Humbrol enamel on Cibachrome on               oil on board
canvas                                                Ruth Borchard Collection courtesy of Robert
                                                      Travers, Piano Nobile Fine Paintings, London
Richard Hamilton was a member of the
Independent Group associated with the ICA in          Born in the Catholic enclave of Goa, India,
London from 1952. The group’s pioneering work         Francis Newton Souza was brought up in Mumbai
in installation, performance and new media            (Bombay), where he studied art before moving to
anticipated British pop art and was a precursor for   London in 1949. He supported himself in part as a
conceptual art. In 1965 Hamilton worked with          writer, and held his first exhibition at Gallery One
Marcel Duchamp on the reconstruction of The           in 1955, which was a critical success. His writing
large glass: the bride stripped bare by her           and art were described by one critic as ‘over-the-
bachelors even and in 1966 he organised the           top’, taunting bourgeois prudery, respectability
Duchamp retrospective at the Tate Gallery. This       and racist attitudes. In 1962 Souza said ‘I have
self-portrait deconstructs the mystique of painting   everything to use at my disposal. I leave
and originality. Hamilton photographed himself        discretion, understatement and discrimination to
from four slightly different angles in each of the    the finicky and lunatic fringe’.
four panels, suggesting the multiple viewpoints of
cubism. He then re-photographed these images
through sheets of glass onto which he painted
marks, which he doubles in successive layering of
real and reproduced gesture.

John N Robinson                                        Andy Warhol
1912–94                                                1928–87
Self-portrait as a young man with mirror c1940         Self-portrait (strangulation) 1978
oil on canvas                                          acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
Robert L Johnson from The Barnett Aden                 Anthony d’Offay, London
Collection, Washington DC
                                                       Andy Warhol began his career as a commercial
The American painter John Robinson lived in the        artist in Pittsburgh before moving to New York.
Anacostia neighbourhood of Washington DC, and          By the early 1960s he had developed the idea of
although he never attended art school, was tutored     representing commodities as fine art, alongside
by senior artists at Howard University. He worked      images of celebrities. Avoiding the aura of
for 34 years as a cook at St Elizabeth Hospital,       handmade originals, he used cheap source
while continuing to paint with a particular            imagery such as pictures from photographic
emphasis on religious paintings and portraits of       booths. The multiples that he produced by
his family. Towards the end of his life, Robinson      silkscreen printing were sometimes customised
also completed several large-scale church murals.      with a painterly overlay. Warhol’s persona was
Here he creates a determined and complex image         projected through glitzy, seemingly superficial
of himself. Through the painted reflection in the      imagery but his work also has a dark side,
glass we can see fragments of his other paintings,     exemplified in his Disaster Paintings of the
and the interior of his studio.                        electric chair, traffic accidents and suicides. He
                                                       created self-portraits throughout his career; in this
                                                       work the stilling of the subject is equated
Joshua Reynolds                                        with suffocation and violent death.
Self-portrait c1747–49
oil on canvas                                          Chuck Close
National Portrait Gallery, London                      b1940
                                                       Self-portrait 2005
The leading English artist of his day and first        oil on canvas
president of the Royal Academy, Joshua Reynolds        The Artist, courtesy Pace Wilderstein
was renowned for his portraits of elite sitters. His
output of self-portraits was comparable to             After studying in the USA and then Vienna,
Rembrandt’s. This remarkable example is                American artist Chuck Close turned from making
brilliantly painted in an unusual landscape format.    abstract paintings to those which use photographic
It was probably produced shortly before Reynolds       images as a source. By 1967 he had completed the
left for Italy, aged about 25, to study the Old        first of a sequence of highly detailed large-scale
Masters. The raised hand produces effects of           realist paintings of heads in acrylic paint, each
shadow that suggest an interest in works by            dramatically enlarged from a photograph and
Rembrandt, where shaded eyes were a sign of the        formed from a grid of more than 100 000 squares.
melancholic temperament associated with artistic       While often choosing friends and family as his
creativity. Reynolds turns his gaze towards the        subjects, Close has made many self-portraits each
light as if in an intense effort to see clearly into   reflecting a current phase of his work. In 1986
the distance, but his confident, energetic quest is    Close returned to using oils and began to build up
inseparable from the shadow that partially             his images from more loosely painted, almost
obscures his face.                                     independent units, a process reinforced after he
                                                       suffered a severe stroke in 1988. Commenting on
                                                       his self-portraits he wrote, ‘It’s a very difficult
                                                       thing to deal with a nine foot high image of
                                                       yourself … I always refer to it as “him”


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