Friday, April 22, 2011

Self Portraits

Somewhere, deep in the Friday Arts section of the Times, an advertisement for a detail from a Rembrandt etching appears called Self Portrait, Frowning: Bust, 1630. Here is a copy of that particular self portrait:
Farther down is another, perhaps more famous, self portrait from the same year that Rembrandt completed at the age of 25. Both of these self portraits were part of a series he did during this period to capture different expressions and emotions. As you can see, it is great fun and utterly arresting, even today.
I have always been drawn to self portraits of any kind, as they represent a kind of visual journal or pictorial autobiography of artists' lives and development. In the case of Rembrandt, his self portraits, particularly those from a much later time when he had passed through a period of prosperity and happiness to one of impoverishment and despair, are among the great works of art ever created. His ability to show how the face can be drawn to reflect all the hardships that human beings endure is one of the great miracles of European art. Like other giants such as Shakespeare, Beethoven, Tolstoy, and Fred Astaire, his art is inexhaustible.

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