Technique Tuesdays: the Art of the Self-Portrait

Technique Tuesday self portrait

What is it?

This week’s Technique Tuesday subject is not a new concept for anyone (particularly in today’s “selfie” filled world!). But not only is the self-portrait is an important exercise for an artist to undertake, it is also significant to view as well, and provides fascinating insight into an artist’s mind or mood. These artists, who spend so much time looking at, observing, and studying the world before them and then choose to focus on themselves as a subject often end up creating something quite remarkable.

Examples from art history:

It’s nearly impossible to tell how far back the history of self-portraiture goes; it’s probably one of those things that’s been around nearly as long as art itself–as human beings, we’re naturally fascinated by the body that we inhabit and the persona we develop day by day throughout our lifetime. As far as its popularity in fine art, though, we can trace the rise in popularity of self-portraiture back to the early Renaissance. For a long time, art featuring human figures was primarily created to tell a story, whether religious or mythological. As the Renaissance brought about a new group of wealthy patrons, interest rose in the concept of a single individual as a subject of a painting. Indeed, the depiction of one single person became a very popular subject for art. Many, many artists since the Renaissance have made a good portion of their income from painting portraits of others, but whether for practice, amusement, or expression, many artists have also delighted in dabbling in the art of painting or drawing themselves. Here are just a few of the fascinating examples of self-portraiture from art history:

AH Self Portrait Collage

From left to right, top then bottom row:

Rembrandt van Rijn, “Self-Portrait, Surprised”
Pablo Picasso, “Self-Portrait with Palette”
Zinaida Serebriakova, “Self-Portrait at the Dressing Table”
Albrecht Durer, “Portrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle”
Frida Kahlo, “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird”
Katsushika Hokusai, “Self Portrait at Eighty-Three”
Vincent van Gogh, “Self-Portrait”
Adrian Piper, “Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features”

Examples at Principle Gallery:

The BP Portrait Award, given annually at the National Portrait Gallery in London, is one of the most prestigious award competitions of its kind today. This year, a record-breaking 2,748 entries from artists in 92 countries were considered, and the finalists were honored in an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. We are so pleased to congratulate Principle Gallery artist Felicia Forte, whose work “Self-Portrait, Melting Point” was among these incredible finalist selections! Click here to check out all of our currently-available work by Felicia Forte.

felicia forte

A great many of the artists we work with at Principle Gallery have experimented with self-portraiture, and we have frequently been fortunate enough to exhibit these fascinating pieces! Here are just a few of the incredible self-portraits we’ve shown at the gallery in recent years, including one from Michael DeVore, which will be part of the upcoming International Guild of Realism 10th Annual Juried Exhibition, opening at Principle Gallery on August 28! Stay tuned for more details, and in the meantime check out our website for more amazing artwork by Mia, Teresa, and Terry.

PG Self Portrait Collage

from left to right: Mia Bergeron, “Harborer”; Michael DeVore, “Self Portrait in Black Cap”; Teresa Oaxaca, “White Collar 2”; Terry Strickland, “Self-Portrait with Beard”

 

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