Wikis > Self-Portrait

“Triple Self-Portrait” February 13 1960

Known Names
Influencers Albrecht Durer
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Vincent van Gogh
Frida Kahlo

(Top Image: “Self portrait of the Artist [Umberto Boccion]“)

Self-portraiture can be traced back at least to ancient Egypt, spanning both time and place, and is found across the globe in a variety of mediums throughout the past few thousand years.


The self-portrait, in which the artist creates a representation of him- or herself, has existed in some form since around 1360 B.C., though its popularity did not blossom until the Renaissance. Jan van Eyck’s 1433 Portrait of a Man in a Turban is commonly held to be the first example of a self-portrait in a panel painting. Later that century, the mirror was invented, which aided in self-reflection and the use of the artist as model. German painter Albrecht Durer, an early sixteenth-century artist, was perhaps the first to revisit self-representation throughout his career, completing at least a dozen self-portraits. Dutch artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn created at least forty paintings of himself in the seventeenth century over the course of forty years. Also prevalent in the Renaissance paintings are a representation of the artist in a group scene or other composition. Though artists since the Renaissance have used self-portraiture as a means of exploring psychological self-awareness and of exposing inner turmoil, painters also painted their own images out of practicality. Struggling artists such as the post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh could not afford to pay models to pose for paintings, and instead invested in a mirror. In the early twentieth century, artists such as Frida Kahlo created autobiographical images that simultaneously recreated their likeness as seen by others, flaws included, and exposed some underlying turmoil. The more than fifty pieces of self-portraiture in Kahlo’s legacy boldly display her physical features, such as her unibrow and mustache, and her physical pain. Modern artists such as Andy Warhol, known as the progenitor of Pop Art and prolific producer of iconic screen prints, played with portraiture. Photographers from his era and those who came later, including Robert Mapplethorpe, Lee Friedlander, and Cindy Sherman, pushed these themes and explored them even further, frequently using photography as their medium. Whether carved in stone, sculpted from clay, painted on canvas, or captured on film, the self-portrait persists as a popular and powerful form of introspective exploration and expression.


Fun Facts

  • In 1839, Robert Cornelius produced the first-ever photographic portrait, which was a self-portrait.
  • Between 1886 and 1889, Vincent van Gogh painted thirty-seven likenesses of himself.
  • Vincent van Gogh reportedly consumed copious amounts of absinthe, which causes yellow vision in addicts and might explain the inspiration for his characteristic use of bright yellow in his paintings, particularly his paintings of himself.

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Some Examples of Self-Portrait Artwork

Self-Portrait with Chinese Lantern and Fruits self-portrait artwork by Egon Schiele

Self-Portrait with Chinese Lantern and Fruits

Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, Vincent van Gogh self-portrait artwork

Self-Portrait with Straw Hat

Artemisia Gentileschi self-portrait artwork by Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi