Artists and Self Portraits
Why would someone take the time to create a work of art that merely resembles themselves? To answer this, one must understand the famous artists of the past, both visual and literary. When analyzing a self- portrait, one notices that it often goes beyond the visual characteristics of the author. Minute details that can be easily overlooked frequently delve into the artist’s personality and can sometimes make the viewer look deeper Into themselves. To answer the why of self-portraiture, one must understand the how.
By comparing the tertiary elements of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce, to the artistic techniques utilized by legendary artists In their self-portraits, one learns the reason of why someone would create a portrait of themselves. When making a self-portrait, It takes much more than simply looking In the mirror and copying what one sees either In text or through art. To make a self-portrait, the artist must look Into themselves and select their most Important qualities that they want to show to the world. Jockey’s original version of Portrait of the Artist as a Young
Man, known as Stephen Hero, was comprised of over nine hundred pages and his siblings were major characters. In the revision that made it his portrait, he decided to get rid of a few hundred of those pages and to focus exclusively on the psychological growth of his alter ego, Stephen Deals. While it must have been difficult for Joyce to completely take out a majority of his work from the published product, the more precise version gave readers a true sense of Joyce and what moments in his life affected his process of growth from a young poet to an accomplished writer.
The selective process is one of the most important elements of elf-portraiture. Another important aspect of self-portraits is the use of color; in literary portraits, the use of diction. The best way to describe the importance of the two was explained by Vincent van Gogh, “Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I have before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily, in order to express myself, more forcefully. ” Van Gogh understood the importance of colors and how they can affect the overall message off self-portrait.
In a portrait that he painted right after being admitted Into a psychiatric hospital (image 1), the background is dark blue and his shirt Is almost the same color. Because the shirt does not have a definite outline, It gives the Illusion that he is fading into the dark abyss of the background. After spending more time In the hospital, he painted another portrait (Image 2). Even though the actual Image of him is almost identical to the previous portrait, It evokes a completely different set of emotions because of the lighter colors he used.
The light blue tones make the painting feel relaxed and calm whereas In the previous painting, the dark color makes It feel ominous and depressing. Van Sago’s quote can also be applied Joey’s writing. In the years after Stephens childhood, he never Just states what Is going on In the world around him; his Dalton and perspective always affect It. The Dalton he uses not only describes his surroundings, but It describes him as well. HIS choice of diction gives the reader Insight Into his personality and his opinion without directly stating it. When talking about prostitutes, he has two very different views.
In rebellion, his encounter with the prostitute is very emotional and almost loving. He refers to her as “a young woman dressed in a long pink gown” and uses phrases like warm and lighthouse,” “embraced him gaily,” and “tears of Joy and relief shone in his delighted eyes” to show his happiness and comfort in the presence of the woman. In the third chapter, when Stephen is beginning to close himself off emotionally, he calls prostitutes “whore’s” and describes them using words like “squalid,” “yawning lazily,” and “clusters of hair” which accentuates his hardened opinion towards them.
Easily overlooked, the use of color and diction changes the overall meaning of self-portraits by conveying feelings that otherwise would have been missed. In addition to color ND diction, small details are another vastly important aspect of portraiture that usually go unnoticed. An artist who understood how small details could express personality and advertise oneself was Judith Leister. She knew how to make people feel as if they knew her when they looked at her portrait.
Her self-portrait emphasizes the importance of small details and what they can add to the message of the final product. In her portrait (image 3), her posture alone says many things about her personality. She is leaning back with her elbow on the chair facing towards the ewer which shows that she is confident in what she is doing and takes pride in her work, eager to show it off to any who interrupt her when she is at work. Her facial expression shows that she is happy, outspoken, and has a warm, welcoming attitude towards people.
The other miniscule details that she included in her portrait may have been a clever form of self-promotion. The painting she is working on in the picture is of a man playing the violin; she was known for painting lively, happy scenes so by having it in her self-portrait, she is saying that painting these scenes is an important part of her. She is holding eighteen brushes in one hand which shows that she is a talented artist and the clothes that she painted herself in show that she is wealthy and successful.
These details could be used to entice potential patrons to hire her because by seeing her portrait, they believe that she is a talented artist who is confident in her work. Like Leister, James Joyce also understood the weight that small details carry. When describing people, Stephen only gives the person’s description and actions; he never gives his actual opinions of them. The details that e includes shows what stood out to him in the moment and which features of the person were the most important. One character that Joyce gives a personality to through details is Vincent Heron.
Heron and Stephen had been competing in school for as long as the two can remember yet Joyce never outright says Stephens opinion of him- it is blatantly stated through the details that are included. The first thing that Heron says is “Noble Deals’ in a high throaty voice. ” He then lets out a “soft peal of mirthless laughter,” and brandishes his cane. Beside him, he has an intimidating yet intelligent friend who agrees with everything Heron says. From these few details, much can be said about what Stephen feels is Heron’s personality.
From the way laughs and the fact that he carries a cane with him, it is obvious that he is arrogant and believes himself to be better than those around him. It also shows that Heron is a powerful manipulator. His fake laugh, the way he addresses Stephen and the fact that a more powerful man is his inferior shows that he knows how to interact with people in a way that results in him always having the upper hand in a situation. Small details can have on self-portraits. In addition to these elements of self- portraiture, motifs are significant as well. Might not a painter’s choice of lines and colors give an indication of his character, whether it is noble or common? ” Paul Gauguin believed that the way in which a person makes their portrait says the most about them. In his Self-portrait from 1889 (image 4), he paints himself among many different symbols. The halo above his head symbolizes him as almost being an angelic figure yet he is holding the snake of temptation between his fingers. He is also within reach of the apples of the Tree of Knowledge which means that when he as painting this, there was a temptation that he had to refrain from.
The fact that he only painted his head in the portrait may symbolize that he felt lost in this battle of good and evil and that he felt out of control. The bright red of the background also adds to the chaotic feeling. By painting himself interacting with all of these symbols, it may be his way of conveying his battle between good and evil into a portrait. His painting of the motif showed that he felt there was a hectic struggle going on in his life that affected how he saw himself. Joyce also put emphasis on the power of outfits.
In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a major motif that is applied throughout the story is that of temperature. When Stephen was happy and comfortable, Joyce did not have to say it; he made a reference to something that was warm that was a signal of Stephens happiness. When Stephen was depressed and felt lost, something about the situation felt cold. While at Clones, a boarding school that he hated, he always felt cold and uncomfortable and when he thought of being at home to comfort himself, he would feel a wave of warmth wash over him.
The motifs that artists use to further their self-portraits often elevate them to a level that takes deep comprehension to understand. So why would one choose to make a self-portrait? Some may say that self-portraiture is a selfish act; merely a way for one to immortality themselves, a way to have a representation on earth long after they are gone. However, James Joyce describes how his self-portrait came to be the best, “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. ” When Joyce first started to write Stephen Hero, he was attempting to distance himself from his embarrassing, poetic sat.
Yet as he began to put more into the work, he began to delve deeper into himself, realizing what made him the man he was and what he contributed to the world around him. Self-portraits force the artist to embark on a Journey of self- discovery. They make it possible for the artist to warp the person that the outside world sees into the person that they see themselves as or the person they wish to be. While self-portraiture may have selfish results, the process of creating a self-portrait is the artist’s way of understanding themselves, inside and out.