Self Portrait – Renaissance to Contemporary: Anthony Bond & Joanna Woodall

In their book on self-portraits, Bond and Woodall consider on p11 “the intense outward gaze that is a consistent feature of self-portraiture from Van Eyck to Warhol.” This made me think more about self-portraits and question whether the statement were true or not.

It is easy to remember the self-portraits that fit this mode – Rembrandt, Durer, Velazquez, Frida Kahlo, but it is also true that some self-portraits do not have this, but it seems to be when the artist is portrayed in some form of action e.g.Artemisia Gentileschi, Courbet and Magritte.

I wondered if the same would be true for photographs, and it did seem to follow suit: Sam Taylor-Wood, Robert Mapplethorpe, Nan Goldin and others have all produced self portraits with the ‘intense outward gaze’. The exceptions seemed to be when the photographer was being playful? such as Lee Friedlander, or when taking a more oblique approach e.g Bill Brandt’s mirrors.

It would seem that with both painted and photographic portraits the ‘intense outward gaze’ forms an arresting part of the image.


BOND, A and WOODALL, J. (2005) Self Portrait; Renaissance to Contemporary. London: National Gallery Publications