A tried and true practice, self-portraiture has remained popular throughout history. Type in any famous artist’s name like Picasso or Emily Carr into Google and add ‘self-portrait’ to your search… You’re bound to get anywhere between one to a hundred self portraits. To highlight the popularity of the original selfie, let’s take a look at some of our favourite artists who immortalized themselves through their art.
Vincent Van Gogh
The words ‘Van Gogh’ and ‘self-portrait’ are basically synonymous. The Dutch artist painted upwards of 30 portraits of himself within the span of three years. His collection of self-portraits places him among one of the most prolific self-portraitists of all time.
Much like Van Gogh, Picasso had a fascination with self-portraiture as well. Between the ages of 15 and 90, the Spanish artist painted 30 portraits of himself. Due to the fact that his portraits span across decades, you can see how he developed as an artist, constantly changing his aesthetic approach throughout his lifetime.
In stark contrast with Picasso, Emily Carr painted very few self-portraits. In December of 1940 she actually said she hated painting portraits. Which doesn’t come as a huge surprise considering Carr drew inspiration from her heritage, painting mainly wild and beautiful Canadian landscapes.
Let’s move on to the Queen of self-portraits; Frida Kahlo. Of her 143 paintings, 55 of them were self-portraits, knocking Picasso and Van Gogh out of the park. Kahlo said, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”
Rembrandt Van Rijn
We’ve met the Queen, now let’s take a look at the King; Rembrandt. The Golden Age painter takes the lead with an astonishingly high number of self-portraits; 100 works, including 40 paintings, 31 etchings, and seven drawings.
Our featured artist, Milos Reindl, has a whole collection of self-portraits that are titled Autoportraits. His paintings are often expressionist in style and consist mostly of classic head-shots. But at times they can be self-reflexive, looking at himself from an outside perspective, depicting himself as an artist within his art.
Straying away from paintings, let’s get into a new medium. American photographer Cindy Sherman is a master of disguise in her self-portraits. Her work showcases herself in many contexts and as various imagined characters. You can see her Untitled Film Stills collection on the MoMa website.
Written by Jarvis
Canadian Modernism: Emily Carr and Milos Reindl
Emily Carr and Milos Reindl were two Canadian artists of modernism. Emily Carr was born in Canada in 1871, while Milos Reindl was Canadian by nationality but born in Czechoslovakia. Both Emily Carr and Milos Reindl used a Modernist style of painting, with Emily Carr using post-impressionist techniques as well. The two artists were quite different from one another stylistically, yet both had very strong Canadian identities that can be seen in their artwork.
These two artists brought different styles to the Canadian art scene. Emily Carr was known for her Canadian landscapes. Her paintings often showed the Canadian wilderness as it truly is: vast, untamed, and beautiful.
Reindl also incorporated Canadian landscapes, but his style was more abstract and modern. He often referred to his life in Canada as the New World in his paintings. His paintings did not depict Canadian landscapes realistically, but rather used them to create a new and unique style of art that was his own.
It is evident that, while their styles were quite radically different, the underlying theme and sentiment remains. Both artists pay homage to the country they call home, in a way that feels authentic to them.
Today, Canadian landscapes are still very relevant in Canadian art. They have become staples of Canadian culture and identity that continue to be represented by Canadian artists presently. Emily Carr’s paintings stand out for their unique representation of the Canadian wilderness while Reindl’s work embodies a new modern style inspired by his time living in Canada.
Modernist Canadian artists, Emily Carr and Milos Reindl were born in different centuries but share an appreciation for natural beauty that is captured within their paintings. Both are known internationally as great painters who challenged traditional perspectives on art with bold colors and new styles to create meaningful pieces celebrating life on this planet