The selfie rage might be the thing for the new generation, but having pictures of yourself is by no means a new thing. From ancient Egypt to the renaissance, self-portraits have been painted and attempted by artists at various stages of their career. All this said, the concept of the self-portrait actually became a rage during the 15th century and since then, artists ranging from amateurs to classical masters have painted them in various styles and to various degrees of accuracy. Considering that even the struggling artist and later dictator Adolf Hitler painted a self-portrait, it is safe to say that capturing one’s own essence is by no means a new phenomenon.
All this said, it is an undeniable truth that some self-portraits are placed above the rest. This can be for whatever the reason, the painter’s own fame, the authenticity of the portrait or the style that was used to capture the model.
Listed below are 10 of the most famous self-portraits that have been painted.
1. Frieda Kahlo
Leaving the world of medicine for the world of art at the age of seventeen, Frieda Kahlo has definitely left her mark in her field. She has painted many self-portraits of herself at various points in her life and each of them is artistically beautiful and emotionally inviting to the audience. But perhaps, one of her most well-known paintings is Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird. As with most of her famous paintings, they incorporate images that bring forth psychological, and physiological sense of pain. The determination and pain that have characterised her life through accidents and divorces are evident parts of her paintings.
2. Vincent Van Gogh
Having painted over 30 self-portraits throughout his career, Vincent Van Gogh has a collection of self-portraits that are recognised as unique, individual and definitely a part of the creme de la creme of the artistic world. The portrait above, Self- Portrait with Bandaged Ear is one of the two portraits he has done after cutting off his right ear, which appears to be the left in the painting since he used a mirror. This painting bags this list not only for the uniqueness of it but because of the story that exists behind it.
Rembrandt has painted many portraits of himself, but perhaps the most famous is that of Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned Up Corner. It is considered to be his most famous self-portrait in that it is iconic for showing his age on his face. Self-portraits by Rembrandt are much more interesting pieces to study when it comes to light that he often asked his students to copy his self-portraits as a form of practice from them developing their own style.
4. Andy Warhol
Known for his four colour prints, Andy Warhol is considered to be one of the greatest artists in the era of pop-art. The popular green, red, blue, yellow combination of print pictures seen today can be credited to him. He has done his own self-portrait as a part of this series as well as parts of other works. But it should be noted that his self-portrait in four colours is one of his most famous works.
5. David Hockney
Known for the harsh reality that he shows in his self-portraits, David Hockney has created many self-portraits that reflect who he is as a person when the portrait is being painted. None of these portraits show any efforts of therapists intentionally posing for it nor is there any flair of idealising any aspect. Often as a collage of various materials or something painted when the artist was looking at a mirror, the paintings are meant to showcase his observations of candid moments and all the awkwardness that comes with them.
6. Lucian Freud
Many artists used mirrors as a form of self-perception and the use of this to create an accurate or idealistic portrait of oneself is by no means a new idea. The way in which Lucian Freud used the mirror, especially in his most famous self-portrait Reflection with Two Children takes perception to a different level. He looks intimidating at the forefront of the painting with the two children almost cowering behind him. This larger than life father figure painting was created by placing the mirror near his feet.
7. Gustave Courbet
A game-changer in the world of art and self-portraits, Gustave Courbet is known as a realist painter. His self-portrait, Le Desespere shows a young man in despair. With wide eyes and wild hair, the painting’s realism takes on another dimension when the contrast that the colours used bring out are considered. One of the paintings that Gustave took with him when he was exiled, this piece is considered to be his favourite.
8. Leonardo Da Vinci
The famous inventor and painter has one self-portrait that has been found. Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk is the only self-portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci that have been found. With many myths about the powers of youth that surround it, it is a portrait that has been reproduced multiple times and with a face that most people automatically associate with Da Vinci. This painting, in which Da Vinci is said to have purposely aged his face is not only associated with the idea of a renaissance man, but is also considered by some historians to not even be a self-portrait because of the age factor. Regardless of its questionable origins, this painting remains one of the most well-known and recognised self-portraits.
9. Albrecht Durer
Self-portrait at 28 will make all viewers pause to stare at the work. With the dark backgrounds and the dark clothes, the facial features and skin colours are highlighted. The artist bears a heavy resemblance to Jesus and this, most critics suggest, was done purposely. A prolific painter and often considered the master of self-portraits, this particular portrait was painted by Albrecht Durer the night before his 29th birthday. The critics, to this day, argue for the reason of Godly resemblance as either a form of self-idolatry or as a way of subtly pointing out that the talent Albrecht had as a painter was a gift from God.
10. Claude Monet
The creator of the style known famously today as impressionism, Claude Oscar Monet has a discount style of painting with soft strokes and undefined edges. To call him the creator of impressionism isn’t seen as too far a stretch when you consider the fact that the name for the style itself comes from his painting “Impression Sunrise” His painting Self Portrait with Beret is a debated work not for its authenticity but for the purpose of creation. Monet was someone who suffered from cataracts and critics struggle to decide whether the portrait was done in an effort to capture his looks before he would be unable to see himself or if it was merely a self-portrait following the trends of the time.
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