Almost every artist, dead or alive, has tried to create a self- portrait sooner or later. The self-portrait allows a deeper look into the thoughts of an artist and gives us an idea of how he or she sees himself/herself.
There are many different ways to create a self-portrait. The style, the technique, and even the medium can differ appaling. Painting is not the only way to create a self-portrait.
It has always fascinated people to represent their own face. The self- portrait gives us the possibility to represent ourselves in a way we want to be. Even in our modern world, with Instagram and smartphones, it is more popular than ever. Although you can hardly compare a selfie made with our smartphone to a painting done by a master in the Renaissance which took of course much more time to create. But in some ways, it has the same intention.
You can say that for many artists the intention creating a self-portrait is more pragmatic than romantic. It can serve as a free model – you only have to put up a mirror and the artist can study the human face in all its details and without time pressure. For others it is the possibility to show something from themselves, to put themselves in a special light or to create publicity. The most popular self- portraits still are those where the artist represent him/herself authentic – vulnerable. Lucian Freuds, for example, represented himself naked and careworn in his self- portrait.
Before the invention of photography the painted self-portrait had a more practical function. In times where artists created portraits of important persons, like kings, popes, earls and so on, the artists had most of the times a grown intention to also represent themselves. Some did this very without reservation as a complete artwork. Others did it in a more hidden way as for example Pietr Claesz in his “Vanitas still-life with a Violine and Glass Ball”. If you take a closer look you can see the artist’s reflection in the glass ball.