Exploration of the Self Artists and their Self-Portraits
The First Self-Portraits… • Are believed to be found in Egyptian Sculptures • They were a “signature” – hidden within a work of art created for a different purpose. Like a religious scene or a portrait for someone else • We also see this in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance • For example, architects would sometimes carve images of themselves in parts of their finished buildings
This is a wedding portrait of a young couple Jan van Eyck, the artist who painted it, is hidden in this painting (though we can’t see him!) He has put a self-portrait of himself in the mirror behind the couple His inscription above the mirror reads "Johannes de eyck fuit hic" or "Jan van Eyck was here." This is a SIGNATURE self-portrait The Wedding Portrait, 1434
This is a self-portrait created purely for it’s own sake This kind of self-portrait is traced back to Northern Europe Durer seemed fascinated by his own image The self-portraits did not explore his inner self Instead they focused on what he looked like, his rising social status, promoting himself to others The Self-Portrait as a Projection of Self
The Self-Portrait as Self Study • Rembrandt was the first to study himself through art • Sketched his face thousands of times during his lifetime • 60 self-portraits that depict his history, an autobiographical story that of his life • In the beginning, maybe he was the only model he had • Later, the self-portraits became an outlet for feelings and ideas
Van Gogh’s Self-Portraits… • …Were also a self-study • He was struggling for life, and perhaps searching for answers through his art • He painted 22 self-portraits in the two years before he committed suicide
Frida Kahlo’s… • …story can be read through her 55 self-portraits - about 1/3 of all her work • It is an exploration of her self, physically and mentally – a self-study • A kind of therapy to face the difficult events of her life • Her leg crippled from polio, permanent injuries from a bus accident, abortions, and botched surgeries • In life she wore flowing, flamboyant clothing which covered her deformities • In her paintings, she came out of “hiding” – revealing and comfortable with her true self
The Self-Portrait as Fantasy • Some artists just focused on their likeness, like van Gogh and Rembrandt • Others staged a scene and put themselves into it • Courbet created a fantasy where he is the central character • Other people in the painting may represent parts of his life
The Narrative Self-Portrait • In the 1900’s we see the first Abstract paintings • First Picasso and later Chagall, used shapes, colors and patterns and their imaginations represent their inner selves • They didn’t really want to make it look like themselves. • Instead it is about who they are inside • This is Picasso’s Cubist self-portrait – it is exaggerated and the features are not in the right places
Chagall – “I and the Village” • Here Chagall creates symbolic fairy-tale of characters and color • In the center are a man and woman, perhaps Chagall and his wife • They are abstracted figures 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.
The Metaphorical Self-Portrait • These are self-portraits that don’t show anything of the artist by Rothko and Pollack • Can be difficult to even say they are self-portraits • But they reveal the feelings of the artist through color, shape, texture in a different way • Have been called “autobiographical outpourings”
Conclusion: Self-Portraits… • Can be carefully staged to show the audience only what the artist wishes to show about himself • Or very revealing, 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 • As a way to release emotion
Lastly, • Whichever way artists choose to create their images in a self-portrait, they are forced to study who they are both physically and emotionally.
Works Cited • The Exploration of the Self: What Artists Find When They Look in a Mirror • By Jeanne Ivy • http://www.research.umbc.edu/~ivy/selfportrait/