“I loathe my own face, and I’ve done self-portraits because I’ve had nobody else to do.”
Well Francis, you could have sprung for model’s fees and hired some pros to pose for you. Ever considered that? Huh? Huuh??? Models have to eat too, you know.
The big Bacon exhibit at the Met closes today, so I thought I’d use his quote both in tribute and as a way to introduce my post on self-portraits. Prevalent throughout art history, self-portraiture is a uniquely revealing genre, and some of the most widely-recognized paintings in history have been artists’ self-portraits. With so much subject matter at their disposal – from street scenes to landscapes to still lifes to dance halls – what motivates artists to paint their own portraits? Well lets be frank and consider the personality traits common to artist psychology. Narcissism and self-absorption are strong contenders. Sorry but it’s true. Or it can be explained by an innocent and sincere desire for self-examination. Or it could be something far less complex, the simple issue of access. The “model” is there ready to go, 24/7. And don’t forget, the price is right. Cheapskates!!
Let’s begin our self-portrait tour with the great master himself, Rembrandt:
James McNeill Whistler:
I give Van Gogh a pass on the not hiring models issue since he was so completely broke throughout his lifetime, and he did a ton of self-portraits to prove it. With so many to choose from, I think this is one of his best:
Here’s a guy who had ample access to models, whether professionals or intimate companions. Yet he still painted plenty of self-portraits. EGO!! This is Picasso:
One of the most famous of all self-portraits, you’ve surely seen this one before. Self-portrait by Matisse:
Leonardo da Vinci:
I saw this Courbet self-portrait in person at the Met last summer and I assure you it was a genuinely terrifying experience. What an attention-hungry drama queen this guy was. Look at him. What a jerk!
We conclude full-circle with our quote man Francis Bacon and the face he claimed to loathe. But he need not feel dismayed. Damien Hirst bought this Bacon self-portrait for $33 million dollars in 2007. I guess sometimes self-loathing has its advantages!
Let’s have some fun with these and use comments to state our favorites. The artists have put themselves out there, right? They’re just asking to be scrutinized. As an art model I enjoy seeing the tables turned. Sit still fellas! Stop moving!! Stop fidgeting!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!!