Rembrandt 1606-1669

I had no idea that Rembrandt had done quite so many self, portraits, somewhere around 100, mainly paintings but some etchings and drawings too.  His are mostly head and shoulders and using chiaroscuro to focus on the face. He also seems to have a fondness for dressing in costume and many self portraits are Rembrandt dressed up or as a character.


I was drawn to this one in particular, there is more light and more detail than many of the others.  He is dressed in what is said to be oriental attire and the detail on the clothing is amazing.  I feel as if this has more of a sense of fun about it than the paintings facing the viewer, hes is looking to the side suppressing a smile I believe. Even the dog appears to be in fancy dress as it is half curly coated and half flat coat.




Pierre Bonnard 1867-1947

In this self-portrait Pierre Bonnard is portraying himself as an artist, pallet and brushes right at the front. He is the only solid thing in the painting the soft colours behind throwing him forward. His expression is very open, wide-eyed and an intense stare. Barely any shadows. He is young in this painting and I feel a kind of earnestness is portrait.


Egon Schiele 1890 1918


Egon Schiele is another artist who produced many self portraits amongst his body of work. I was drawn to this particular painting at first by the hair, wild and blue it is almost current, I don’t feel it would look out of place in a current style magazine. His work is very linear and hands are always very prominent.  I found several photographs of him and in every one he poses his hands just as much as his face.


Pablo Picasso 1881 – 1973



There are again quite a few choices for self portraits done by Picasso. This was done on 1907 at the beginning of his cubist phase. Although heavy black lines and almost block colours it still manages to retain a likeness.  The face completely fills the frame, no context at all, little shading just a touch behind the head which throws it forward.  Like the Bonnard painting an intense stare but unlike that one there is no softness or innocence here.


Gwen John 1876-1939

Realising all my research on self portraits was on male artists, I needed to even things up a little!  I went in search of female artists.  I discovered Gwen John, born in Wales but living most of her life in France, in a relationship with Rodin and sister of August John, I had never heard of her before however I was taken with this self-portrait straight away.gwen_john_-_self-portrait


There is a stillness and calm about this portrait.  She looks as if she is far away in her own thoughts. Feminine and delicate yet strong.

The colours are all complementary to her complexion and hair.  The background although one colour with no context is actually many colours.  No shadow thrown by the figure making her appear to be in the space as if floating there, or coming toward the viewer.

I wonder what she was thinking about?  I love this.



Marlene Dumas 1953
p1060945-smallerI saw this picture at her retrospective exhibition last year at Tate Modern, Image as Burden.  When you see this Live it has a luminous quality and the eyes seem to look out from behind a mask of the face. Colours unreal/exaggerated and if she is meant to be looking over her shoulder – she’s a contortionist!   It does however make you think and again there is a far away thoughtfulness about the expression, but I don’t feel its gentle at all, more calculating.

Zinaida Serebriakova 1884-1967

Another artist that is new to me, An artist from the Ukraine painting at the time of Impressionism. There are two Self portraits below, quite different but equally appealing.

She has painted herself smiling in both.  The portrait on the left looks unfinished, maybe it was just a sketch, but it is playful, dressing up in the scarf? Trying a style of painting out?  Her skin tones are darker giving the impression of perhaps summer and having been outside. On the right its a much more detailed painting, and would have had to rely on her visual memory, she couldn’t have held that pose and painted at the same time. Cooler colours more precise painting.   The facial expressions draw me to these as she seems quite happy and content using herself as a model.