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Self portrait : A rare form of Autobiography

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  1. Self portrait : A rare form of Autobiography Presented By: N Sharath Chandra (09010233) G V L Somesh (09010216) P Dinesh Nadh (09010624) As A Part of HS 405: Inventing Truth: Art & Craft of Autobiography

  2. Introduction Since the fifteenth century and the advent of the mirror artists have modeled for themselves in their own works of art. Whether it is an in-depth exploration of the artist’s own psyche or simply because as a model, the artist is clearly the cheapest and most available. Whatever the reason, nearly every artist, in every medium from painters to sculptors have attempted this exploration of self. Our Mission With this research, I’d like to explore the many different kinds of self-portraits in an attempt to understand why people create these works and how they benefit from them. In ascertaining the personal value of a self-portrait, I will be able to construct the various elements that artists would be seeking. Our Vision HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  3. Background Jean Fouquet's self-portrait (c. 1450), a small picture created in gold on black enamel, is seen as "the earliest clearly identified self-portrait that is a separate painting, not an incidental part of a larger work".Sean Kelly points out in his book" The Self-Portrait, A Modern View, "while we know a number of self-portraits from the ancient world, we also know very little about the psychological motivations which inspired them. The Greek Sculptor Phidias, who created sculptures for the Parthenon, is legended to have been jailed in 438 B.C. for leaving his signature, a small self-portrait of himself, on the shield of Athena. His bald-head and wrinkled features were easily recognizable among the idealized figures of the Greek heroes. The crime, it seems, was two-fold; the Parthenon was not place for human representation, and a sculptor should not take credit for a work of pure divinity. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  4. Background Phidias was among the first of a succession of artists who would use their self-portrait as a signature in significant works. Although many artists may have incorporated their image into great works, it is not always easy to identify. And whether the artist's goal was to sign his work or whether he simply used his image because he needed another face in the crowd and did not have a model, is difficult to tell.. A self-portrait, as a projection of self, may have began with Fouquet's hand held portrait but artists like Albrecht Dürer and Parmigianino are known for the detailed exploration of their own images. They paint themselves as they wish to be seen. Other portrait artists who also used the self-portrait as a projection of self did so to demonstrate wealth, social status, talent or religious beliefs. Later artists such as Rembrandt and van Gogh took the self-portrait to a deeper level. Rembrandt created vast amounts of self-portraits through intensive self-study. Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother, "In Rembrandt's is more than nature, it is a kind of revelation." Rembrandt's self-portraits delve deep into the psyche, they show a complex personality, strong emotions, and a chronicle of circumstances through life. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  5. Background One of the greatest examples of self-portrait as self study can be seen in the work of Frida Kahlo. In approximately one-third of her work Kahlo used herself as the main subject, creating a kind of therapy, struggling to make amends with personal afflictions. Rembrandt, van Gogh and later, Kahlo used facial expressions, distinct brush strokes and lighting to portray their inner selves. Gustave Courbet, a leader in the Realist movement, was known for using the element of fantasy in creating his self-portrait. In his most famous work from 1855, Interior of My Studio, a Real Allegory Summing Up Seven Years of My Life as an Artist, he enlists a host of props and people to help portray himself. In the painting he sits at his canvas surrounded by hunters, peasants and other representations of his life. There are several other self-portraits by Courbet where he assumes other relevant fictitious roles. Although Courbet uses fictitious scenes to depict his emotions, the images of himself are always realistic interpretations. Artists like Chagall and Picasso, on the other hand, created a different kind of image, the narrative self-portrait. In their works, the self acts as a character and has little to no resemblance to their actual physical appearance. Picasso once said, "Whether he likes it or not, man is the instrument of nature; it forces on him its character and appearance." Chagall's I and the Village is a good example of this kind of self-portrait, where he relives the visions of his childhood. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  6. Background The narrative self-portrait, though an abstraction of the figure, still contains human figures. The metaphorical self-portrait on the other hand is more of an "autobiographical outpouring". These works are highly affective one can't help but view them as representations of the artists' emotions. "The fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate these basic human emotions...," Rothko was quoted as saying. English sculptor Henry Moore took an inventive approach in his self-portrait when he opted to draw his hands instead of his face. All of these artists gazed into their mirrors and attempted to grasp their identities. They sought to portray their image, whether it showed a clear representation of their features, a walk through their childhood or an outpouring of emotions. Some self-portraits show only what the artist wants us to see, some chronicle the history of the artist, others reveal personal secrets and a sense of isolation. Whichever method is employed each artist took a long literal and figurative look at him/herself. Each portrait is a an exploration of the self. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  7. The Self-Portrait as a Signature The self-portrait as a signature reappeared strongly during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period. Architects from the great cathedrals would sometimes carve images of themselves in less noticeable parts of their finished pieces. Two well known examples are the cathedrals at Santiago di Compestello and Prague. During the Renaissance period sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti is said to have chiseled a self portrait, as early as 1401, into the frame surrounding the set of bronze doors created for the Florence Baptistry. Jan van Eyck is thought to be present in a small detail from his famous masterpiece, The Ghent Altarpiece, completed in 1432. But his most influential painting of the period, Wedding Portrait from 1434 employed a quite unique use of the self-portrait. A young couple stands facing the viewer while exchanging their wedding vows. A mirror behind the couple, in the center of the painting, reveals Jan Van Eyck's presence in the room. His inscription above the mirror reads "Johannes de eyckfuit hic" or "Jan van Eyck was here.“ HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  8. The Self-Portrait as a Projection of Self Though the self-portrait as signature appears to have been practiced widely in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, the self-portrait purely for it's own sake is traced to Northern Europe. The earliest surviving example of this kind of self-portrait was Jean Fouquet's gold and enamel hand-held likeness dated in 1470. But it was Albrecht Dürer, born one year later, who is seen as the first artist to make self-portraiture a major part of his work. The greatest printmaker of his time, Dürer seemed fascinated by his own image. His first self-portrait dates back to his adolescence in 1484. He continued to explore his changing facade and social status until 1522, a few years before his death when he used himself as a model in Christ as the Man of Sorrows. Dürer's most impressive self-portrait is from 1500. Janson described it best when he said, "...the solemn, frontal pose and the Christ-like idealization of the features assert an authority quite beyond the range of ordinary portraits. The picture looks, in fact, like a secularized icon..." Here, it is apparent that Dürercould use his skills as an artisan to promote himself, much the way early portrait painters were commissioned to immortalize their employers. Dürerpainted his image to project an air of importance, to create perhaps, an increased social status. He was keenly aware of his audience. His portraits, though they do record change and emotional transition over time, were not an exploration of his psyche so much as a means of showing his rising social status. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  9. The Self-Portrait as Self-Study and struggling artist, Rembrandt was the most readily available model. He could paint himself anytime, anywhere without having to pay or rely on a professional model. Another reason for the multitude of self-portraits may lie in Though Dürer is credited for being the first artist to consistently create self-portraits, Rembrandt is given credit for being the first artist to intensely study the self through art. During his life time, 1606-1669, Rembrandt sketched his own face thousands of times. He created a legacy of 60 self-portraits that depict his history, an autobiographical story that chronicles his turbulent life. From rags to riches, through marriages and mistresses, from youth to old age, we can witness the changing face of Rembrandt. His first self-portrait is dated as early as 1629; his last, a few months before his death in 1669. Between those forty years Rembrandt modeled for himself so many times that we can't help but wonder why. There seems to be several advantages for Rembrandt to turn to the mirror for inspiration. One notion suggests that as a young the typical clientele of the time. Rembrandt often painted his own face deep in the shadows or with grimacing expressions, techniques that he certainly could not explore on the portrait of a wealthy client. Kelly noted that for Rembrandt, "self-portraits became an outlet for feelings and ideas concerning the nature of human existence which found no satisfactory channel elsewhere." In this case, his own face provided a wide range of opportunity for growth and discovery as an artist. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  10. Cont… using his face to test new techniques. It is in these last two decades that a real exploration of self comes forth. We see a much more honest view of Rembrandt's features in his later work than in his famous Self-Portrait, from 1640. In his final self-portraits dated from 1660 to 1669, Rembrandt appears old, wrinkled, and tired. Glancing in the mirror, Rembrandt said of these final portraits, "...and I came, it may be, to look for myself and recognize myself. What have I found? Death painted I see..." Vincent van Gogh is as famous for his self-portraits as is Rembrandt, though instead of creating them over a life time, he painted the majority, twenty-two of them, within two tumultuous years. Van Gogh's images during that period (1886-1888) and for the two years before his suicide in 1890 reveal a man who was struggling with life, and perhaps searching for answers through his painted image. Each painted portrait captures detailed emotions of shock, disturbance, tranquillity or confusion. He even captured his own image, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Head, (1889) after his infamous mutilation of his ear. In it he appears troubled and somewhat dazed. He appears to be lost within himself, isolated, a sign of how his tragic life would ultimately end. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  11. Cont… Like Rembrandt and van Gogh, the story of Frida Kahlo can be read in her self-portraits. Approximately one-third of her work is the exploration of her self, physically and mentally. Kahlo created some fifty-five self-portraits as a kind of therapy to face the most troubling events of her life; her leg crippled from polio, permanent injuries from a bus accident, abortions, and botched surgeries. In person, Kahlo dressed in long, rich fabrics and covered herself in jewelry, she hid her deformities beneath an austere persona. In her portraits she could come out from hiding and reveal her troubles in paint. In that sense, her self-portraits are both tragic and triumphant. Just as Rembrandt could look at himself in the mirror at the end of his life and accept his aging body and face, Kahlo could accept and feel comfortable revealing her afflictions. But unlike Vincent van Gogh who searched for an answers in his self-portraits, Frida Kahlo knew the answers. She used the canvas as a cathartic release of emotion. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  12. The Self-Portrait as a Fantasy Gustave Courbet. Interior of My Studio,AReal Allegory Summing Up Seven Years of My Life as an Artist, 1855. In between the lifetimes of Rembrandt and van Gogh, many artists created self-portraits in the same manner focusing intently on their facial features and expressions with very little else in the frame. There were some however, like Gustave Courbet who embellished their self-portraits into fantasy. Courbet and others continued the tradition of painting their own likeness but went further to stage a scene, add artifacts and/or people to symbolize their social status or mental state. In this way, the artist's face was no longer the central image. In Courbet's Interior of My Studio, A Real Allegory Summing Up Seven Years of My Life as an Artist, (1854-1855) he "created a new model of an artistic and social universe of which he is the center and soul creator." The painting is a stage, Courbet is the central character deftly painting a landscape on a large canvas, flanked by a small child gazing up at him and a nude female model who looks over his shoulder. The boy represents innocence, the nude model perhaps nature. To his left is a group of people likely symbolic of his home town life, hunters, peasants, a priest, a mother and a child. To his right are individuals such as critics, clients and intellectuals (the man reading is Baudelaire.) He may be torn between these two lifestyles or perhaps just showing us different sides of his life. During his lifetime, Courbet created at least seven other "fantasy" self-portraits, portraying a wide range of characters from a handsome wooer to a noble prisoner. His paintings were the first to break away from "the neck-up self-portrait" and instead, reveal himself through his surroundings. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  13. The Narrative Self-Portrait The advent of Abstractionism in the early 1900’s led to an even further shift away from the realistic face than of Gustave Courbet’s fantasy self-portraits. Artists like Picasso and later Chagall, unlocked their imaginations and let shapes, colors and patterns represent their inner selves without as much emphasis on capturing a literal likeness of themselves. The father of Abstraction, Pablo Picasso, created several remarkably different interpretations of himself in paint, pencil and ink. His earlier self-portraits from 1900 and 1901 are very much in the same vain as Rembrandts’ and van Goghs’. Picasso stares out from the canvas at the viewer, allowing his expression to reveal himself. In 1907, he took a Cubist approach and with areas of color and exaggerated features made himself into a wide-eyed character. By 1938, he abstracted his figure to such a degree that both eyes rested on one side of his face, allowing the essence of his likeness to replace the realism of his features. Picasso utilized the narrative self-portrait even further in a series of prints in the 1960’s. In No.319 of the series, "Picasso portrays himself as a wizened voyeur wearing a jester's hat, who peers morosely at the enthusiastic love-making of a handsome young artist and his model." The staging of this design, with Picasso’s apparent anguish with old age and revealing portrayal of himself, is quite different from the careful display of characters in Courbet’s Interior of My Studio. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  14. Another notable narrative self-portrait from the same era was Marc Chagall’s I and the Village created in 1911. In it, Chagall created a memoir of his childhood in Russia. The painting is a deeply symbolic fairy-tale of characters and color. In the center are a man and woman, perhaps Chagall and his wife, abstracted figurines walking on a hillside. The character does not really resemble Chagall, in fact, he did not even need to consult the mirror for inspiration. The story he wanted to tell was deep inside him. Cont.. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  15. The Metaphorical Self-Portrait There are obvious differences between the realistic portraiture of Rembrandt and the narrative fairytale of Chagall. Rembrandt relies on his physical features to portray himself, Chagall reveals himself through a fantastical story of abstracted shapes. They both however, as did van Gogh, Kahlo and Picasso, use a human-like figure, variably distorted, as the center of their self-portraits. When artists like Jackson Pollack (1912-1956) and Mark Rothko (1903-1970) took Abstraction to a new level, there were no longer human figures represented on the canvas. The Abstract Expressionists’ works, although difficult to call self-portraiture, are still deeply emotional and revealing. Kelly described the abstract piece of art best when he termed them "autobiographical outpourings." The impulsiveness and spontaneity of Pollack's drippings and splattering's can be seen as a more realistic view of the artist's feelings than the carefully constructed brush strokes of other artists seeking to create a self-portrait. Janson described Pollack's use of paint as a "storehouse of pent-up forces for him to release." Mark Rothko's deeply saturated bands of color seem even farther removed from the figure than Pollack's paintings. But yet, the artist's emotions still come forth. "The people who weep before my pictures," Rothko noted, "are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them." HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  16. Conclusion Self-portraits have been a method of self-exploration since humans first gazed at their own reflection in a pool of water. With the invention of the mirror came an even stronger fascination to capture one's likeness. And even within the past ten years, the public's fascination with the way an artist sees him/herself has led to exhibitions like the National Self-Portrait Collection in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. Self-portraits, we have found, can be carefully staged to show the audience only what the artist wishes to project, or deeply revealing, inadvertently displaying feelings of anguish and pain. Self-portraits have been used to test new techniques, make a signature mark, launch into self-study, remember the past, and as a way to release emotion. Whichever way artists choose to construct their images, they are each forced to study their own personas both physically and emotionally. What do artist's find when they search the mirror? For some the self-portrait is cathartic experience, a letting go of pent-up emotions. For others, the process reveals new insights about themselves and their work. For all artists, the self-portrait is an exploration, an opportunity to see beyond the image in the mirror and begin to search into the soul. HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography

  17. Works cited [1] Bonafoux, Pascal. Rembrandt: Self-Portrait. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1985. [2] Fuentes, Carlos, forward. The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait. New York: Harry Abrams Inc., 1995. [3] Goldscheider, Ludwig. Five-Hundred Self-Portraits. London: George Allen & Unwin LTD., 1937. [4] Janson, W.H. History of Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1986. [5] Kelly, Sean. The Self-Portrait: A Modern View. London: Sarema Press, 1987. [6] Wood, Michael. Art of the Western World New York: Summit Book, 1989.

  18. Thank You! HS 405 : Inventing The Truth: The Art & Craft of Autobiography