Almost every artist, dead or alive, has tried, sooner or later, to make a self-portrait. The self-portrait allows a deeper insight into the thoughts and the psychology of the artist and gives us an idea of how he or she sees himself/herself.
There are many different ways to create a self-portrait. The style, the technique, and even the medium can differ. Because painting is not the only way to make a self-portrait.
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Throughout the course of art history, artists have always been fascinated by representing their own face. The self-portrait gives us the possibility to represent ourselves in a particular way, and now, in the age of Instagram and smartphones, it is more topical than ever. Although you can hardly compare a selfie made with your smartphone to a painting done by a master in the Renaissance, there are some similarities as regards the intentions.
The intention of many artists, willing to create a self-portrait, is actually more pragmatic than romantic. Because in this way, you just have to take a mirror and you have a free model, whom you can use to study the human face in all its details. Whereas, for other artists, it is a possibility to show a part of themselves, which was hidden, or they could even use it for self-promotion. However, the most popular self-portraits are still those where the artist represent him/herself in an authentic and vulnerable way. Lucian Freuds, for example, represented himself naked and careworn in his self-portraits.
Before the invention of photography, painting self-portraits had also a more practical function. Artists, who spent time portraying important people, like kings or popes, wanted to represent themselves too. Some did this quite openly and painted a self-portrait as a complete artwork. Others did it in a more hidden way as for example Pietr Claesz in his “Vanitas with Violine and Glass Ball”, where he painted his reflection on the glass ball, but we can see him, only if we take a closer look.