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This portrait of the artist wearing a lorgnette is striking for the backward-tilted position of the head, depicted full-frontal and from below, so that the artist looks down his nose at the viewer. Breitner employs a similar composition in his 1882 Selfportrait with cigarette (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen). In the self portrait with lorgnette, however, he focuses attention on his physiognomy by illuminating the face from bottom left so that his surroundings and clothing are in shadow and the viewer’s gaze is directed exclusively at the face. A Breitner self portrait exhibited at his great retrospective of 1901 prompted the comment ‘Just as this head is more than life-size [and] shows a man of great strength, imposing, almost a giant, so Breitner’s art is one of unusual power. And, like this head, it looks down on us from on high and demands respect. It never seeks to humour the viewer; it is fine as it is, you just have to reconcile yourself to the fact and learn to like it.’

Source: R. Bergsma, P. Hefting (eds.), George Hendrik Breitner 1857-1923, Amsterdam 1994.

Details

  • Title: Self-portrait with pince-nez
  • Creator: George Hendrik Breitner
  • Date Created: circa 1882
  • framing: Wooden frame with simple moulding
  • Physical Dimensions: w314 x h450 cm (framed)
  • Alternate Title: Zelfportret met lorgnet
  • Type: paintings
  • Rights: Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, bequest 1931
  • Medium: Oil on panel

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