Self-Portraits, Anyone?

Speaking of portraits, how about a little selfie inspiration, artist-style?



Ever since the first cave artist had the bright idea of blowing paint around the outline of his hand, artists have made self-portraits. Pick any period of art history, and you’ll find self-portraits; not even medieval artists could resist the lure of including their own likeness in their work.


From the late Middle Ages onward, self-portraits grew bolder, including the famous case of Diego Velázquez inserting himself into the Spanish royal portrait via a handy mirror.



Paint is a favorite avenue for self-depiction; the results are as varied and individualistic as the artists themselves. Arthive presents a few of the classics here, including this one by Paul Gauguin.

The invention of photography in the late 1800s equaled an exciting new medium for self-portrayal. Even without the modern benefit of the selfie stick, photographers have managed. One of the most notable recent examples might be Cindy Sherman. Arguably, her most recognizable bodies of work consists of elaborately staged portraits using herself as model. The question may be: are they really self-portraits?


Photography seems to give artists an almost theatrical license to experiment with image and identity. A recent article on My Modern Met features self-portraits by some of the most iconic photographers of the last hundred years. While some seem relatively straightforward and painterly in presentation, more like a traditional portrait aim

ed at depicting the artist’s basic self, many are deliberately staged, like those of Sherman and French artist Claude Cahun.


Surrealist photographer Cahun also used herself as model, and though she worked in early twentieth-century France, her work has a timeless, placeless quality that feels quite contemporary.

And here’s one last self-portrait by Andrew Myers on My Modern Met to round out the collection. Paint, construction screws, a quirky idea: the selfie will find a way.



Leave a Reply