Self-portrait

Autoportrait, 2016, huile sur toile, 65 x 55cm

Autoportrait, 2016, huile sur toile, 65 x 55cm

Above is a recent self portrait. There are pros and cons to painting self-portraits:

Pros: The model is always on time. He keeps still. He takes a break and comes back to work at your bidding. He wears the right clothes. He does not waste time. He is quite good company even if he does not say much. He works for free.

Cons: You can not measure him up with a paintbrush or plumb line (if you start to do so, he rather irritatingly measures you back). He has a tendency to look at you intensely and occasionally appear a little cross or slightly crazy. He will appear to be holding his paintbrush in the wrong hand, have his parting on the wrong side of the head and his mole on the wrong cheek. You have to position him carefully in the light.

Now the direction of the light in a self portrait is particularly tricky. Below is a self-portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds which demonstrates succinctly the problem of having the light straight-on when you are trying to paint your image in the mirror.

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Sir Joshua Reynolds by Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1747-1749, oil on canvas, 63.5 cm x 74.3 cm), National Portrait Gallery, London

Here you have a young Rembrandt painting himself with the light behind him, thus avoiding the problem Reynolds had to face (pun intended). The effect is dramatic but we see precious little of the artist.

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Rembrandt van Rhyn, Self-Portrait as a Young Man, c. 1628, oil on panel, 22. 5 x 18.6 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Below is Sargent placing the light to one side. This is sensible and means we can see at least half his face and he could also see what he was doing.

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Self-portrait, John Singer Sargent, 1906, 70 × 53 cm Uffizi Gallery, Florence

I decided to be sensible like Sargent.

There is one other downside to painting self portraits – they do not sell well unless the artist is young, beautiful and preferably female. I imagine my children will inherit mine.

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2 Responses to Self-portrait

  1. Andre says:

    Salut Louis,

    Très ressemblant bravo mais je trouve que tu as pris un coup de jeune…. j’imagine que c’est bon pour les clients vieillissants comme moi !!!!
    Fais-moi lors d’un de tes passages à Geneve pour aller déjeuner.

    BONNES FETES et bonne année 2017, pleine de succès et beaucoup de ventes de belles toiles .
    Amitiés. Andre

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