From the Director
The desire to create self-portraits is strong for many artists. The list of reasons often begins with a practical one: a painter starting out finds the best, most patient, and least expensive model in his or her self. At another level, artists may find that the self-portrait is an opportunity to look within and seek a more significant truth about existence. It requires skill and courage to succeed in this form, and artists who perform it well move far beyond vanity to a deeper expression of self.
The viewer, in turn, benefits from this exploration, being able to share the intensity of gaze that the artist has experienced. There is a voyeuristic satisfaction in having the opportunity to scrutinize the artist so closely. The result is often a visceral connection between viewer and artist.
Other less personal elements affect the self-portrait as well. It functions, inevitably, as a barometer for the time in which it is created. Though frequently direct, a self-portrait can also obscure the artist through the use of masks, disguises, and symbols. Each self-portrait contains many layers of information, and it challenges the viewer to decode its mysteries.
Our thoughtfully curated exhibition, “The Self-Portrait, from Schiele to Beckmann,” gathers more than 60 outstanding self-portraits by 35 artists, primarily from Austria and Germany. We introduce the subject with a small prologue devoted to the Old Masters, in order to reference the long tradition and Renaissance origins of self-portraiture.
Renée Price, Director
Neue Galerie New York