Enfilade

New Book | The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History

Posted in books by Editor on August 2, 2014

From Thames & Hudson:

James Hall, The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History (London: Thames & Hudson, 2014), 288 pages, ISBN 978-0500239100, £25.

The-Self-Portrait-jacketIn this broad cultural survey, art historian and critic James Hall brilliantly maps the history of self-portraiture, from the earliest myths of Narcissus to the prolific self-image-making of contemporary artists.

His intelligent and vivid account shows how artists’ depictions of themselves have been part of a continuing tradition that reaches back for centuries. Along the way he reveals the importance of the medieval ‘mirror craze’; the explosion of the genre during the Renaissance; the confessional self-portraits of Titian and Michelangelo; the role of biography for serial self-portraitists such as Courbet and van Gogh; themes of sex and genius in works by Munch, Bonnard and Modersohn-Becker; and the latest developments of the genre in the era of globalization.

The full range of self-portraits is covered here, from comic and caricature self-portraits to ‘invented’ or imaginary ones, as well as key collections of self-portraiture such as that of the Medici in Florence. Throughout, Hall asks why—and when—artists have chosen to make self-portraits, and looks deeply into the worlds and mindsets of the artists who have created them.

Comprehensive and beautifully illustrated, the book features the work of a wide range of artists including Alberti, Caravaggio, Courbet, Dürer, Emin, Gauguin, Giotto, Goya, Kahlo, Koons, Magritte, Mantegna, Picasso, Raphael, Rembrandt and Warhol. Offering a rich and lively history, The Self-Portrait is an essential read for all those interested in this most enduringly popular and humane of art forms.

James Hall is an art critic and historian whose previous books include The World as Sculpture: The Changing Status of Sculpture from the Renaissance to the Present Day; Michelangelo and the Reinvention of the Human Body; Coffee with Michelangelo; and The Sinister Side: How Left-Right Symbolism Shaped Western Art.

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