I’m watching the documentary ‘Ego:The Strange and Wonderful World of Self-Portraits‘ on BBC 4 and what a wonder it is. It begins with the now obligatory nod to the Selfie Revolution and today’s all pervading narcissism.
It then moves onto one of the most glorious self-portraits made by an artist ever.
The self-portrait by Albrect Dürer painted in 1500 is like the ultimate hipster having let his top-knot down for a vain, self-conscious mirror selfie to post on a famous ‘swipe right’ site. His golden curls are tight and precise, draped evenly over his shoulders, like a pyramid, like his capital ‘A’ & ‘D’, his initials with a cropped crown. He is dressed in silk and fur with the shadow of the latest iPhone just peeking from his hand. The self-portrait is strong and confident and face on to the viewer, yet the eyes are looking over the viewers left shoulder. Like the viewer is less important than the reflection of the artists’ image in the mirror. Dürer is Rock-God and I am his ultimate groupie. Shocking in his time for the likeness to Jesus. This painting is mesmerising and I had almost forgotten how much I love him and his work. A consummate draughtsman and printmaker, one of the artists I had to study during my traditional art school training. Revisiting an artwork, or even an artist, ensures you revisit yourself and your own practice, and ultimately grow & develop that practice further.
In addition to the image above, the documentary, presented by Laura Cumming (the Observer’s Art critic), looks at 5 centuries of Self-Portraiture and there are many examples of fine work. In particular, the closer look at the variety of Rembrandt’s self-portraits and her visit to the Vasari Corridor, in the Uffizi Museum, which houses the largest collection of Artist’s Self-Portraits in the world.
The link to BBC iPlayer is only live for a further 23 days and please be aware that you may not be able to access this programme from outside the UK.