Self-Portrait of the Artist

An untidy history of artists' representations of themselves in pretty much any form you can think of (painting & sculpture, poetry & prose, photo & film…) — updated every third day and open for suggestions.

Tag: Toulouse-Lautrec

The artist’s model.

Valadon, Suzanne - 1883

Suzanne Valadon modelled for Puvis de Chavannes, Degas, Renoir, Steinlen, Toulouse-Lautrec and even composer Erik Satie, who represented her, respectively, as statuesque, naked, innocent & melancholy, provocative, hungover, and early-Renaissancesque.

She had relationships with most of these artists, and rumors have it she tried to commit suicide in order to get Toulouse-Lautrec to marry her.

Toulouse-Lautrec - Portrait_de_Suzanne_Valadon_par_Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec

This could be true or it could be a legend. Nevertheless, I cannot help but notice that the only one who really got the intensity of her stare — the only one who saw her, as it were, as she saw herself — is indeed Toulouse-Lautrec.

Witness the first and last of her self-portraits, dated 1883 (top) and 1931 (bottom), compared to Toulouse-Lautrec’s 1888 painting Gueule de bois (centre).

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The artist has self-irony.

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There is some earnestness in this 1882 Self-portrait before a mirror by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec which the sketch below, also from that year, humorously subverts.

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Yet although the two works are opposite in spirit, in both of them (either through the framing of the bust in the mirror or through the conventions of caricature) the artist is somehow disguising his proportions — which were a cause of physical and psychological concern for him throughout his life.

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(This is a gelatin silver print by Maurice Guibert portraying Toulouse-Lautrec as both artist and model, in the 1890s. Guibert’s playful pictures of Toulouse-Lautrec dressed up in several guises are a model of self-irony.)