An Afro-Brazilian from a humble background, Arthur Timótheo da Costa produced throughout his career countles self-portraits as well as depictions of this own studio and those of other artists. He was one of the many western painters who took the artist’s studio and its conventions as a starting point for understanding the world. Although he also worked in the open air and produced a large number of landscapes, Timótheo da Costa’s relation with reality took place primarily any way of the distilling space of the studio.
This canvas is constructed in dark tones, ranging from black to chestnut brown and reddish hues. The outlines break down along their borders, the shapes being defined by means of color, thus revealing how the artist was interested in – and influenced by – 17th-century Dutch master such as Rembrandt van Rijn(1606-1669) and Frans Hals (c. 1580-1666). This interest is manifested by the spontaneous, though regular treatment of the brushstroke and by contrast between light and dark areas. Seated before his easel, wearing a White shirt and a dark vest, necktie and pants, the artist is busy painting a portrait. His arms and his right hand, which holds a brush against the canvas, are the most brightly lit points of the composition. A reddish, wooden beam, on which a mask is hanging, separates the canvas into two parts: a right half, consisting of the real universe, containing the artist and his model; and the left half, the universe of representation. Na eclectic and restless spirit, Timótheo da Costa here produced a canvas filled with scenographic effects, with a dramatic intensity the artist was adept at producing, due to his association with the Italian set designer Oreste Coliva, with whom he worked at the beginning of his career.