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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

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exploration of the self

Exploration of the Self

Artists and their Self-Portraits

the first 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
the wedding portrait 1434
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
the self portrait as a projection of self
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
  • 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
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/