The Self-Portrait: A Cultural Historyby James Hall
“Hall provides a lively cultural interpretation of the genre from the Middle Ages to today. . . . Rather than provide a series of ‘greatest hits,’ he is more concerned with the reasons why artists create self-portraits.” —The Weekly StandardThe self-portrait may be the visual genre most identified with our confessional/p>/em>… See more details below
“Hall provides a lively cultural interpretation of the genre from the Middle Ages to today. . . . Rather than provide a series of ‘greatest hits,’ he is more concerned with the reasons why artists create self-portraits.” —The Weekly StandardThe self-portrait may be the visual genre most identified with our confessional era, but modern artists are far from the first to have explored its power and potential. In this broad cultural survey of the genre, art historian and critic James Hall brilliantly maps the history of self-portraiture, from the earliest myths of Narcissus and the Christian tradition of “bearing witness” to the prolific self-image-making of today’s contemporary artists.
Hall’s intelligent and vivid account shows how artists’ depictions of themselves have been part of a continuing tradition that reaches back 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 biographical role of serial self-portraits by artists 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.
Comprehensive and beautifully illustrated, the book features the work of a wide range of artists including Alberti, Caravaggio, Dürer, Emin, Gauguin, Giotto, Goya, Kahlo, Koons, Magritte, Mantegna, Picasso, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Warhol.
Rembrandt and Courbet [created self-portraits] is at the heart of art historian
James Hall’s book. . . . Hall’s writing is not only accessible for a general audience,
but filled with notable insights, including spicy, prurient ones.”
Eyck to Diego Velázquez’s ‘Las Meninas.’”
Art historian Hall examines the genre of self-portraiture from the Middle Ages to the present, contextualizing the tradition in relation to the cultural climate of its time. The author emphasizes that his examination differs from other histories of self-portraiture by stressing the importance of the Middle Ages to this genre, as well as the significance of mirrors to artists beginning in this period compared to in the Renaissance. Hall discusses portraiture chronologically and thematically. He addresses the artist as a cultural hero during the Renaissance; the mythologization of the artist's studio in the 17th century; the self-portrait expressing personal feeling, emotion, and biography in the 19th century; the themes of sex and genius in the early 20th century; and the marginalization of the face and emphasis on the body in the later part of that time. Well-known artists such as Titian, Frida Kahlo, and Caravaggio are considered, but Hall also brings in lesser-known figures to help illustrate specific points. VERDICT This clear, well-researched book is an exceptional choice for everyone from the general reader to the expert in art history.—Sandra Rothenberg, Framingham State Coll. Lib., MA
- Thames & Hudson
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