In this oil painting from 2021, Gillian Wearing expands on her Lockdown self-portraits by inserting herself into a 1877 painting by the French artist, Henri Fantin-Latour (1836 to 1904) entitled La Lecture (The Reading). The original painting depicts two women in a domestic setting, one of whom reads aloud from a book, while the other sits beside her listening. In her version, Wearing takes the place of the listener, but crops the image, shifting the focus from the act of reading to the relationship between the two figures. As in her Spiritual Family photographic series, Wearing assumes the identity of a historical figure, but here she plays the role of a subject rather than an artist. Carefully studying her female companion, she imagines herself in a time and place that limited women’s social lives to private spaces – not unlike those featured in Lockdown.
Paraskeva Clark (1898 – 1986) came to Toronto via Paris as a Russian émigré, arriving in 1931. Having experienced the 1917 Russian revolution firsthand, she never forgot its terrors or its utopian promise. Once in Canada, she remain committed to her homeland. In 1942, the year in which she painted Self Portrait With a Concert Program, her country was under siege during the Second World War. At that time, she held a sale of her paintings in support of the Canadian Aid to Russia Fund. In this painting, she incorporates the paper program from a concert of Russian music into the surface of her work, her gaze meeting ours with wary pride.
Photographed in the Vancouver Art Museum in Vancouver BC.
In 1911, while staying at Spurveskjul, his rented home near Copenhagen, Vilhelm Hammershoi undertook a group of self-portraits that encapsulate his reputation as a painter of tranquil, light-filled interiors. This composition (1911) shows the artist at work, with his left hand raised, as if reflected in a mirror. The sunlit door and window behind him are two of his signature motifs. Left unfinished, the painting was kept by the artist’s wife, Ida, and then her descendants, until 2014. A closely related painting is in the Statens Museum for Kunst (Art), Copenhagen.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Contrary to its title, this intriguing and enigmatic self-portrait, The Artist Looks at Nature (1943), shows the artist ignoring the brightly lit landscape in front of him. Nature, as depicted here, is surreal, with inexplicable discrepancies of scale and perspective. The fields suggest the terrain around Sheeler’s Connecticut home, while the massive walls recall Hoover Dam, which the artist photographed in 1939. In the painting, Sheeler works intently on a monochromatic drawing of an antiquated stove, which is based on a photograph he took in 1917. Yet despite these deliberate references to his own work, the painting’s meaning is ambiguous. Perhaps Sheeler wished to evoke the many vistas open to an artist, the literal and figurative landscapes of the mind.
This painting, entitled Anywhere Out of the World (1915 – 19) may be a self portrait. Mark Chagall (1887 – 1985) bisected the head of the figure because, as he explained it, it “needed a bank space right there“ to strengthen the composition. The pictorial strategy, which appears in some of his earlier paintings, could be a rendition of the “luftmensch,“ a Yiddish term used to describe a person who is concerned with intellectual pursuits rather than with the practicalities of life. The sideways cityscape adds tension to the scene. The painting’s overall geometrization is reminiscent of El Lissitzky’s Proun paintings — abstract compositions meant to be looked at from various vantage points.