Saturday, September 26, 2020

A MUST READ for all self portrait artists

The New York Times has produced an EXCELLENT analysis of the self portrait (1500) Albrecht Durer (1471-1528).

This is coupled with the use of digital technology to permit an up close and personal view of the painting and various of its features. I've never ever seen it before in this kind of detail, which allows you to see, for example:

  • that his eyes reflect the pattern of light coming from the window transom
  • why other artists thought he might have a special brush to paint hair and fur.

DO READ/VIEW Seeing Our Own Reflection in the Birth of the Self-Portrait By Jason Farago Sept. 25, 2020

from the New York Times article of the same name


The portrait is of a 28 year old Durer, who was already famous and wealthy due to his very many wood engravings and associated prints which were sold far and wide.

It highlights:

  • the technical proficiency of the painting
  • the evocation of religious paintings
  • the novelty of the self portrait - being a major break with tradition through the use of a full frontal self portrait - portraying one's self looking straight out at the viewer - previously only reserved for Christ.
  • the emphasis on the direct and penetrating gaze and his creative hands - as tools of the master artist 

Technical Note:

  • The portrait is listed in various places as "Self-Portrait with Fur-Trimmed Robe"
  • It is the third of his three self portrait paintings - which were not something painters did at this time (as the article notes)
Art historians consider it the most personal, iconic and complex of his self-portraits
  • The portrait is painted in oil on lime wood panel. 
  • It measures 67.1 cm (26.4 in) high by 48.9 cm (19.2 in) wide. 
  • The inscription on the right - in very precise gold lettering - reads 
    • in (universal) Latin "Albertus Dürers Noricus / ipsum me propriis sic effin / gebam coloribus aetatis / anno XXVIII
    • or "Thus I, Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg, painted myself with indelible colors at the age of 28 years."
    • PS. Google Translate is completely useless at translating Latin! The translation comes from the article
  • He also uses his monogram - which both signifies the year it was painted (anno domini) but also the initials of his name
  • The portrait is part of the collection of the Alte Pinakothek, Munich - one of the oldest art galleries in the world.
Below are his two earlier self portraits


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