How we see ourselves


This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.

For my gallery, I chose to focus on the great diversity in the history of self portraits.  As an artist, I've always been fascinated in self portraits.  My face is the one I'm most familiar with, obviously, which takes out an element of study when doing a portrait that lets me really get to the meat and potatoes of the art I'm trying to make. Intensely studying one's own face also allows and artist to grasp subtleties of human anatomy that would slip by the unmindful observer.  A self portrait reveals much about an artist's view of themselves, and gives a great timeline of the evolution of an artist's style.

This etched self portrait of Rembrandt is a great example of the artist showing how they view themselves: in a simple manner that lends itself to necessity in printmaking, the artist shows his humor and command of the use of line. In his later self portraits Rembrandt shows himself opulently dignified, making this slightly comical portrayal a delight.
Self-portrait of Yun Du-seo, Yun Du-seo, 1668/1715, From the collection of: Korea Data Agency
Monochromatic inks on parchment make up this simplistic self portrait from 1700's Korea. I've never seen a portrait like this, but I feel like it gives a good impression of art in Korea at the time. That is one of my favorite feelings to get from a self portrait: the feeling of seeing it as a window to a different time or place.
Self Portrait, John Singer Sargent, 1852, From the collection of: National Academy of Design
This is a great example of an artist letting their signature style drive their self portrait. A mixture of photorealism and abstraction play off each other in this Singer Sargent painting. It's almost like looking at a picture put through a filter of the artist's style: as is the case of most good self portraits.
Self-Portrait, Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), 1887, From the collection of: The Art Institute of Chicago
Watching Van Gogh's style evolve through his portraits is one of my favorite things as an artist. His signature stroke style is obviously present, but in a much more realistic way than in later paintings. Looking at his self portraits and the ways that they change is almost like getting a glimpse inside his head.
Self-Portrait, Vincent van Gogh, 1889, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
We see Van Gogh grow into himself as an artist with this next self portrait, painted only two years after my last example. The pose and composition of the portraits are extremely similar, which gives a great opportunity to compare the two stylistically. Van Gogh's form language is more exaggerated in this later painting, and he is obviously more confident in his brush work.
Self-portrait with a hat, Paul Gauguin, 1893 - 1894, From the collection of: Musée d’Orsay, Paris
This portrait of Paul Gauguin shows a bit more realism than is common in his other notable paintings, but sticks to a very familiar color scheme. This is an example of an artist showing their thoughts on themselves, as Gauguin has painted himself in front of one of his most famous paintings.
Self-portrait, Norman Rockwell, Circa 1920, From the collection of: Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA
Like the Singer Sargent portrait, this self portrait by Norman Rockwell feels like looking at a picture put through a Rockwell-filter. This is such a simple piece, lacking so much of the vibrancy and life that Rockwell was so skilled at packing into his paintings and drawings: it makes me wonder if this is a portrayal of humility as an artist and a person.
Self-portrait wearing a velvet dress, Frida Kahlo, 1926, From the collection of: Museo Frida Kahlo
I must say, first, that I adore the way Frida Kahlo portrays her eyebrows in her paintings. The boldness, the confidence, the obvious's such an inspiring thing to see as a female artist. This painting shows that confidence- Frida's thoughts on herself- and is a great denotation of the evolution of her style through her career.
Self Portrait, Georgette Chen, 1964, From the collection of: National Heritage Board, Singapore
This portrait was striking to me after seeing the Korean portrait from over 200 years earlier. The work is again done on parchment in a monochromatic color scheme, and not in a dissimilar manner. This portrait is from 1964, and I feel as if it takes me back to that time when I look at it- as if the artist snatched a moment in time and saved it in this portrait.
Zubkov. Evening cactus.Self portrait., Zubkov Gennady, 2012, From the collection of: Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art
This is a great example of self portraits showing the changes of art through history. This is a modern piece, painted in 2012, but it shows through cubism how far we have come as artists with our range of self expression. Though one cannot pick a sensible face out of this painting, I would be very interested to hear how the artist has instilled themselves in its contents.
Google apps