Looking at faces: Research

Thinking about artist’s self portraits I thought first of all of David Hockney, mainly as I had been watching a documentary abut him last night. Hockney has painted quite a few in various media, but I think ‘Self portrait with Charlie’ ,( 2005, oil on canvas), is rather interesting. source: http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw129528/David-Hockney-Self-Portrait-with-Charlie

NPG 6819; David Hockney ('Self-Portrait with Charlie') by David Hockney

Hockney has captured himself doing what he loves best – painting. I think the style of this painting is unmistakably Hockney, and he has favoured the blues that feature so much in his swimming pool paintings. His facial expression is concentrated on the job in hand,  his brushes ready to go. I almost feel he is about to say something, with that Yorkshire accent…He is being observed by ‘Charlie’, sitting behind him on a bench. This painting is part of a series of large scale single and double figure paintings, made by Hockney in his studio in the Hollywood Hills. I think it is interesting because Charlie watches Hockney at work, Hockney looks out at you, the viewer, whilst you gaze back at Hockney and then at Charlie behind him.

I have not been able to find another artist’s impression of Hockney.

Egon Shiele is an artist that I admire for his bold, loose and often erotic paintings that say so much. He also did a lot of self portraits.

source for image: http://gwallter.com/art/angst-and-the-void-vienna-portraits-and-mira-schendel-2.html


In ‘Self portrait with raised, bare shoulder’, (1912, oil on wood), Shiele gazes back insolently at you, daring you to disapprove; perhaps of him, of his lifestyle, or of his work . The flesh tones are very raw , almost meat-like and the bare shoulder defiant. The lips are parted and sensual. As with much of his work, he has not painted in a background so his image stands out starkly against the white. I find the attitude in this image very confrontational!



Gaela Erwin, ‘Self portrait with swallowtail: Forehead’, oil on linen. Source: http://www.gaelaerwin.com/oils.html#section5


I love this beautiful self portrait, that I happened upon whilst looking for self portraits. Erwin has painted many self portraits, and indeed did a whole series as herself as a saint. But this one stands out for me. I love the skin tones and shadows, the play of light upon the skin is so beautiful…and I shall be looking closely at how she achieved this when I am painting my own image in the next exercise (especially as she has similar colouring to myself). She has a steady gaze and a neutral expression. I like the butterfly on the forehead. Does it represent her soul? Or perhaps her fleeting, fluttering thoughts as she gazes at herself, and out at you the viewer. I think she has tried, and succeeded, to create a little mystery with this painting.

Paul Cezanne, self portrait, 1882.  source: https://www.wikiart.org/en/paul-cezanne/self-portrait-1882


Below: Cezanne by Camille Pissarro source: https://www.1st-art-gallery.com/Camille-Pissarro/Portrait-Of-Paul-Cezanne.html


In Cezanne’s own self portrait, his look is serious and he gazes at you in an almost arrogant way, the slight downturn of the lips suggesting  cold disapproval perhaps. The hat is perhaps one that he wear most days? Is he hiding a receding hairline? Cezanne has a much more gentle, almost humble look in the  Pissaro painting. The colours of the clothes are warmer, slightly shabbier in look, the coat undone in a casual way. The mouth is not evident being hidden in the beard. He is wearing a hat, but a more casual cap. He looks much friendlier and more approachable. So Cezanne is perhaps telling us he is a master and we are way beneath him, he is unapproachable, whilst Pissaro has not seen him in the same way and feels a warmth towards him, as a fellow artist.

Lucien Freud, ‘Reflection’ self portrait, 1985 source: http://www.npg.org.uk/freudsite/


Freud has used, bold, gestural strokes for this painting. The light must be shinning down to give that large shadow of his face on the chest and neck. It gives for dramatic contrasts. Freud is not looking quite at you but concentrated and confident in the act of painting, although the lack of clothing makes him a little vulnerable too I think. Freud has picked up on every change of colour and tone in his skin. It is not perhaps flattering but  bold and strong.

Lucian Freud - portrait

Freud painted by Zsuzsi Roboz

source: http://www.lebrecht.co.uk/blog/?attachment_id=3669

This painting also has strong skin tones, but the darkness is all around the eyes, which captures you in his gaze, which is penetrating but not unfriendly. He is wearing a shirt and tie and stood in front of a tiled wall….maybe in a toilet block?!

I found an interesting article about Roboz, whom I had not heard of before: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/jul/19/zsuzi-roboz

‘…she was a symbolist artist – she wanted to catch the creative aura of those she portrayed, many of whom have not otherwise been the subjects of penetrating works of art of this sort.’

Tracey Emin, self portrait, ink and wash on paper.  source: http://www.artvalue.com/auctionresult–emin-tracey-1963-united-kingdo-self-portrait-1972226.htm



I am not sure this is Emin’s usual style, but I like it nonetheless.  Emin has never been afraid to expose herself to the world in all in her raw, hurting glory. I think this has a touch of Picasso about it. The lop sided grin is not so evident here, but she looks scared, confused, perhaps in pain and vulnerable.


Emin by Tom Daley for the Independent: source: http://artwatch.org.uk/art-and-photography/

I like this sketch of Emin; I think it captures her spirit and sense of fun and originality. I think Daley has most likely taken this from a photograph. A complete contrast to the self portrait.



Author: Wendy Kate

Happily sharing my life in Spain with a tall bearded man from Dorset.

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