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Over a century after its creation, the French novelist Marcel Proust said of Jean-Siméon Chardin’s audacious self-portrait, “This old oddity is so intelligent, so crazy . . . above all, so much of an artist.”” In a fitting finale to a long, successful career as a painter of still lifes and genre scenes, Chardin turned in his last decade to a new medium, pastel, and to a new subject matter, portraits (primarily self-portraits). Eye problems arising from lead-based oil paint poisoning were the partial cause of this dramatic change. Of the thirteen pastel self-portaits by Chardin known today, the most famous are versions of the example seen here, with the casually dressed, aging artist in his studio. A virtuoso colorist, the septuagenarian here revealed a joyously free stroke and palette. Nonetheless, the construction of the figure is solid and rigorous, adding to Chardin’s powerful presence. This composition was created at the same time as a portrait of the artist’s wife for the 1775 Salon (Musée du Louvre, Paris). A year later, Chardin—with greater daring—replicated the pair. These later portraits were separated for almost two hundred years, until they were reunited in the collection of the Art Institute.

Details

  • Title: Self-Portrait with a Visor
  • Creator: Jean-Siméon Chardin (French, 1699–1779)
  • Date Created: About 1776
  • Physical Dimensions: 457 × 374 mm
  • Type: Drawing and Watercolor
  • Rights: Clarence Buckingham Collection and the Harold Joachim Memorial Fund
  • External Link: The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Media: Pastel on blue laid paper, mounted on canvas
  • Credit Line: The Art Institute of Chicago, Clarence Buckingham Collection and the Harold Joachim Memorial Fund, 1984.61
  • Artist: Jean-Siméon Chardin (French, 1699–1779)

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