The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History

The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History

by James Hall
     
 

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Sheds new light on the long history of self-portraiture with fresh interpretations of famous examples and new works, ideas, and anecdotes

This broad cultural history of self-portraiture brilliantly maps the history of the genre, from the earliest myths of Narcissus and the Christian tradition of “bearing witness” to the prolific self-image-making of

Overview

Sheds new light on the long history of self-portraiture with fresh interpretations of famous examples and new works, ideas, and anecdotes

This broad cultural history of self-portraiture brilliantly maps the history of the genre, from the earliest myths of Narcissus and the Christian tradition of “bearing witness” to the prolific self-image-making of today’s contemporary artists.

Focusing on a perennially popular subject, the book tells the vivid history of works that offer insights into artists’ personal, psychological, and creative worlds. Topics include the importance of the medieval mirror craze in early self-portraiture; the confessional self-portraits of Titian and Michelangelo; the mystique of the artist’s studio, from Vermeer to Velázquez; the role of biography and geography for serial self-portraitists such as Courbet and Van Gogh; the multiple selves of modern and contemporary artists such as Cahun and Sherman; and recent developments in the era of globalization.

Comprehensive and beautifully illustrated, the book features the work of a wide range of artists including Beckmann, Caravaggio, Dürer, Gentileschi, Ghiberti, Giotto, Goya, Kahlo, Kauffman, Magritte, Mantegna, Picasso, Poussin, Raphael, Rembrandt and Van Eyck. The full range of the subject is explored, including comic and caricature self-portraits, “invented” or imaginary self-portraits, and important collections of self-portraiture such as that of the Medici.

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
“Think selfies are a new phenomenon? Think again. In Hall’s cultural history of self-portraiture, you’ll find everyone from Michelangelo to Titian to Cindy Sherman.”
Gallery & Studio
“[A] splendidly written and valuable study of one of the most psychologically revealing genres in art history.”
The Daily Beast
“Knowing why artists like
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.”
Al Jazeera America
“James Hall’s brilliant book . . . traces the evolution and aesthetic development of the form, from Flemish painter Jan van
Eyck to Diego Velázquez’s ‘Las Meninas.’”
The Commercial Dispatch
“The variety of expression on display here is amazing. . . . Hall carefully unpacks the portraits . . . with anecdotes and histories that bring a new understanding to a vital part of artistic endeavor.”
Art Eyewitness
“Hall shows that the creation of self-portraits is a deep-rooted aspect of the creative impulse.”
Portland Book Review
“A lovely object in itself. . . . The text is informative and accessible.”
Choice
“Features major artists, mostly European, exhibiting themselves in a variety of modes, mostly pictorial, all complemented by effective, descriptive passages in well-wrought prose. . . . Recommended.”
The Weekly Standard
“James Hall provides a lively cultural interpretation of the genre from the Middle Ages to today. But rather than provide a series of ‘greatest hits,’ he is more concerned with the reasons why artists create self-portraits.”
ARLIS/NA Reviews
“While numerous texts have been written about many of the individual artists (and their self-portraits) the scope of the text is unique. . . . [The] inclusion of lesser known artists and media is one of the strengths of Hall’s research, and the historic context provided demonstrates his extensive knowledge.”
Professional Artist
“This broad cultural survey...shows us how art inspired by the artist's own image has been part of our tradition for centuries....Beautifully illustrated.”
Santa Barbara Independent
“Hall intelligently and succinctly analyzes centuries of cultural history, and if the book doesn't much suggest where we're going, it does an exceptional job of pointing out where we've been.”
Library Journal
06/15/2014
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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780500772072
Publisher:
Thames & Hudson
Publication date:
05/27/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
23 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

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Meet the Author

James Hall is an art historian, lecturer, and broadcaster, and is a visiting research fellow at the University of Southampton in England. He is the author of four critically acclaimed books.

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