Traditional Self-Portraits (20th Century and Before)
Rene Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964
Magritte painted The Son of Man as a self-portrait. About the painting, Magritte said:"At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It's something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present."
Effect on Pop Culture: The Son of Man is quite dominant in the remake of the “Thomas Crown Affair.” In 1970, Norman Rockwell did a playful homage to The Sone of Man called Mr. Apple. In Michael Jackson's video, "Scream", the painting appears briefly in the "Gallery" section.
Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1966
Self-Portrait (1966) was constructed in what would become one of Warhol's signature styles — a grid of bright, repeated silkscreened portraits. An expert colorist, Warhol paired primary and secondary colors, as well as, different shade of the same color.
His likeness remains recognizable, the image is painted in such a way as to minimize Warhol’s human qualities. His facial features, although always identifiable, also act as patterns of densely layered color. Any expressive paint handling is suppressed by the silkscreened surface, reflecting Warhol’s self-proclaimed intention to ‘completely remove all the hand gesture from art and become noncommittal, anonymous’.
Norman Rockwell, Triple Self-Portrait, 1960
Triple Self-Portrait appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post for February 13, 1960, and was the 308th of 322 cover illustrations Rockwell painted for the magazine between 1916 and 1963. Triple Self-Portrait also introduced the first chapter of his autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator (1960), and was featured on cards he sent to people who wrote to him.
The face on the canvas is a realistic but slightly idealized portrait of the artist.
The “real” Rockwell has his back to us and we are only able to see his refection.
The reflection however has the blank eyes created by the lenses of his glasses. Ultimately, the viewer is denied access to the artist in his entirety.
Though this piece shows three versions of the artist's likeness, the viewer somehow feels as if they aren't actually seeing Rockwell for who he is.
M. C. Escher, Hand with Reflecting Sphere, 1935.
Self-portraits in reflective, spherical surfaces are common in Escher’s work, and this image is the most prominent and famous example. In much of his self-portraiture of this type, Escher is in the act of drawing the sphere, whereas in this image he is seated and gazing into it.
Features in Pop Culture:
Frank O'Connor, the manager of the Halo video game series, made an illustration that references this work. It appears in the Halo Graphic Novel.
In Disney's TRON: Legacy, Jeff Bridges' Character, CLU, is seen holding a reflective apple in which he sees his own reflection. This may be in homage to Escher, as there are two octahedra on a nearby shelf, and much of the digital world is made up of tessellations, a subject largely focused on by Escher.
Contemporary Self-Portraits (Alive and Working NOW)
Photographer Nikki S. Lee’s black-and-white works are far tamer than her usual color self-portraits that have her in some suggestive or just plain obscene pose, imitating an imagined character from different ethnic subcultures. These lead-heavy photographs of sketches Lee commissioned from street portraitists around the world, are like artful head shots the CIA might use to locate a rogue secret agent. It is a compilation of what various street artists around the world believe Lee to look like.
Catherine Fox, Face 3 (self-portrait), 2004
Catherine Fox is a Sydney based artist who shows with the Robin Gibson Gallery, in Sydney. She consistently evolves in technique and style making portraits of herself.
"Using the self centre-stage, some of my recent works aim to explore metaphorical musings such as ‘Sometimes I feel Pretty Vacant’."
JR, Self-Portrait in a Woman's Eye, Kenya, 2009
This image, from the 28 Millimetres Series is a brilliant use of a subject to capture an image of himself. The photographer-activist, JR, converts his pictures into posters and transforms the streets into universal open-air galleries. This piece and many others were pasted to the side of a train in Kenya. Known as Guerrilla Photo Installations, JR's work is highly controversial and highly illegal.
Coplans stated that "the act of posing in front of the camera gives access to a layer of long forgotten memories from a long and adventurous life". All of his work is deeply rooted in his personal history, and much less about his actual body in the photographed. Although his black and white photographs always carry the description 'Self Portrait' in their titles, the face is never seen, letting the body do the talking.