Demontration of Technical Skill
|Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror, 1524|
Proclamation of Status
In part one I describes how Dürer was concerned with raising the status of the artist going to the extreme of portraying himself as an icon of Christ.
In the portrait below the artist seems to be 'showing off'. It strikes me as being similar in character to many of the 'selfie' photos on social media sites these days documenting life events but contrived to look gorgeous in the process. Here Sir Anthony van Dyck (who was court painter to Charles I) is proudly displaying a chunky gold chain while gesturing towards a sunflower. He seems to be saying 'look at me! I'm such a fabulous painter that I won a big chunky gold chain for painting these golden sunflowers'. He's wearing red satin - all very 'bling' and ostentatious - If he were around today he's probably be a rapper!
|Sir Anthony van Dyk Self Portait with a Sunflower|
|Las Meninas 1656 - Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez|
Practising Facial Features and Experimenting with Techniques
Rembrandt clearly did some of this as I referred to in part 1. Van Gogh may have been forced to repeat his self portraits, not necessarily because he was exploring his state of mind (although we might like to think that after the subsequent publication of his letters and his premature death to promote the idea of the tortured genius). It may have been expedient because he was short of money and could, therefore not afford to pay a model. The results are spectacular and the artis recognisable for those brush strokes and those spectacular colour schemes rather that for consistency in the facial features.
Portraying the artist in the process of painting
One of my favourite self portraits of this section is that of Artemisia Gentileschi. This female artist is a touchstone for may female artists given that she triumphed over adversity (she was raped as a teenager and underwent the indignity of a trial which made her ineligible for marriage but went inn to become a very successful artist at a time when female artists were very rare).
|Self Portrait as La Pittura 1638|
(Self Portrait as an Allegory of Painting)
|Adelaide Labille-Guiard 1785|
Self-Portrait with Two Pupils
At another extreme comes Philip Guston with his 1960 painting "the Studio" Click Here for Link to Image. The artist looks like a faceless member of the ku-klux clan or a halloween ghost with a sheet over his head. He paints a crude likeness of himself under a bare electric bulb (late at night) with a paintbrush that seems to smoke because of the cigarette he is smoking with the other hand. His hands are stubby and clumsy- he casts himself as a clumsy and un-creative buffoon. But to those in the know there are a number of references to previous high art in this picture.
Reference Material used:
"A Face to the World - On Self Portraits" by Laura Cummings (Harper Press 2010).
The Oxford History of Art "Portraiture" by Shearer West (Oxford University Press 2004)