Self portraits are very interesting. I have many of them catching me in different moods. Often, I’m not sure they even look like me , but then I’m not a realist painter. I have painted myself from looking in the mirror, but what do I see, the same old face that I shave and wash every so often.
Rembrandt was one of the greatest selfies. The eyes, as someone said, are the mirror of the soul and they are right. I love Rembrandt’s self portraits, especially the one of himself seated on a stool and looking hard at himself with brush, palette and mole held before him. He attacks every mood straight on. From a teenager to old man. From a bright hopeful look to a sad, melancholy look. Some look like he has just landed a commission, the others where he may have just lost one.
I came across a face carved into rock in the French West Indies . It was at the bottom of a waterfall and would be covered by water when the waterfall was in full motion. But it was a dry season and the image could be seen above a small pool. It was just two eyes. From those pupils a line went out circling the eyes and continuing to form the head. Very simple but very memorable. Had the artist sat there and carved an image of herself/himself from an image seen in the pool? Sending out a very early selfie? We will never know. But what we do know is that people do like to make images of themselves. Hence the new term “selfie” from new technology.
Titian and Giotto were great Selfies, also Michelangelo and van Gogh, van Gogh seemed to take it to a new level when he painted himself with bandaged ear. He appears laying in bed with a fur hat, smoking a pipe, looking very content with “himselfie”. I don’t think van Gogh ever thought that his image would be a valued sought after object. But then again, he was a brilliant mind that perhaps knew he would be cherished later.
Artists may just be recording themselves , but I feel it is more than that. It is as if they are looking into the well spring, the source of their work and what is it that makes them tick. Once again it is art trying to resolve the question of, why? Art is a process of creation. It is to make something , a useless object, with hope it will answer the question of why, knowing full well there is no answer.
Here is one of myself trying to focus on what I am trying to do which is to catch myself in a concentrated moment – unshaven and trying to look in more than one direction looking for the reason why?