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: XXI century

Double portrait of the artist in time.

Helen Lundberg - Double Portrait of the Artist in Time 1935

If you liked the time-travelling artist, Helen Lundberg’s Double portrait of the artist in time (1935) is the thing for you.

It is played on the same paradox. How can the little girl with the budding shoot pose in front of a painting of herself in her blossoming twenties?

The shadow (also appearing in Bailly’s painting as his wife’s ghost) seems here more polyvalent and opaque — Is it the artist’s? Her older self perhaps, older than both her representations? Or might it not be her ancestors’?

The artist loves wood.

Lynch, David - Self-portrait 2012

Commenting on this self-portrait he produced in 2012 to raise funds for another documentary on himself (Lynch Three), David Lynch explained to the New York Times, last month: “It’s a portrait portraying my love of wood.”

As part of the same article (incidentally, on self-portraiture), the notoriously eclectic artist was commissioned a further self-portrait in a form of his choosing. He came up with the–“very Lynchean”–photo below.

Lynch, David - 2013

(Every self-portrait has a few fundamental questions at its core — What relationship does the artist-as-creator have with the artist-as-subject? Do the two find a balance? Or are they struggling against each other? And if they are, who is winning?)

Private self-portrait of a public man.


When released these two paintings some time ago, they attracted much ridicule on the web for their naïve style and unpoetic subject. Yet George W. Bush‘s leaked self-portraits tell us something about our times which few of us now lazying about on the web can dismiss so easily.

What I mean is, often that moment of privacy when we take a shower or a bath is the only time we are alone with ourselves. So unaccustomed are we to the absence of others (people, tasks, or stimuli) in our lives — what are we to do with our own exclusive presence?

The private work of a public man, Bush’s self-portraits pose exactly that question.

Image(Compare the number of photographic portraits of feet and selves-in-mirrors that are found on any social network or blog — few of us are wholly immune to the strange feeling.)

Self-portrait of the street-artist.


Though nobody has seen his actual face, infamous graffiti artist Banksy has in fact produced a number of ‘self-portraits’. The one above, sold in 2009, fetched what, at the time, was the artist’s personal record.

(Two years previously, Banksy had made a painting of an auction where a blank, framed canvas showed the words: “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.”)

When a series of stolen shots purportedly picturing the artist in Jamaica in 2004 were leaked online, several newspapers and blogs gloated over the unmasking of Banksy.

ImageSome time later, the graffiti below appeared in Shoreditch, London. By many hailed to be Banksy’s self-portrait, I am surprised I couldn’t find anybody who pointed out that this piece, clearly taken from the ‘Jamaican photo’, must be the artist’s way of scoffing at your credulousness.


(It is quite weird how we react to a contemporary artist whose face is unknown, especially if we consider that all the pre-XIX century self-portraits posted below come from people whose actual features are forever unrecoverable — and that is arguably what is so fascinating about their work.)