Virgo Self-Portraits: Perfect Wits

Sunday September 25th 2011
David (30 August 1738)

It will come as no surprise to see that the work of artists born under Virgo is consistently detailed, crafted, technically excellent and polished to a wonderful degree. Nor will it surprise you that all these painters could draw beautifully.

Ingres (29 August 1780)

Jacques Louis David documented the French Revolution as it took place, creating the iconic images of the period, for example the Death of Marat. His vision was dramatic, cinematic and glamourous. He helped manufacture the image of Napoleon, Emperor of Europe.

Jean Dominique Ingres, in the following generation, had the same highly polished finish to his work, but much of his subject matter was far more inward, imaginative. He was a romantic, who could also turn his hand to perfect portraiture. If you had money in the 1830s, he would surely have been first choice to paint your portrait. His work was simultaneously accurate and flattering.

de La Tour (5 Sept 1704)

A hundred years previously, you’d have hired another great portraist and Virgo, Maurice Quentin de La Tour. In an era of wits, here is a witty self-portrait.

Apparently one of the reasons for his popularity at court was his ability to make his sitters look clever.

Over in England, George Stubbs was busy painting rich men’s horses and dogs. But he’s made himself look perfectly ordinary in contrast to the rather dandy Frenchman. And here’s another one who looks like he’s in on the joke – Joseph Wright of Derby. Wright is the first artist of the English Enlightenment and did a series of paintings of experiments and lectures on science paying special attention to the tools used. I think that’s shows a Virgoan interest in technology.

Wright (3 September 1734)
Stubbs (25 August 1724)
Friedrich (5 September 1774)

I’m trying to get back to someone who takes himself more seriously. The German artist Caspar David Friedrich was renowned for the melancholy and gloom with which he imbued his romantic landscapes.

He was also badly depressive. But even he looks as if he’s trying to suppress a smile. Pretty intense gaze there though.

The flip side of depression is, of course, a sense of humour.

Burne Jones (28 Aug 1733)

And what about Edward Burne-Jones, the most romantic, prolific, painter of  Pre-Raphaelite fantasy? Oh for goodness sake, his self-portrait is a perfectly sweet cartoon. What’s more it shows a typical Virgo moment – feeling kind of small and worthless and overwhelmed. So self-deprecating.

Rackham (19 Sept 1867)

Another illustrator of the fairy world was Arthur Rackham – again technically highly accomplished. Looking at this self-portrait you’d think he was a school librarian, not a wildly dark and romantic visionary. I think that’s St Paul’s cathedral behind him.

So what do we have from the Virgos along with sheer skill and technical brilliance, romance and wit, I think.

Jean Arp (16 Sep 1886)

Just in case you think I’m joking, take a look at his fellow, who helped found the Dada movement, Jean Arp.

I mean seriously.















Here are links to the previous posts in this series
Leo
Cancer
Gemini
Taurus
Aries
Pisces
Aquarius
Capricorn

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What a fantastic list…of men. Can you please round out the Virgo pantheon with the numerous earth goddess/angel women who also populate it?

  2. Christina says:

    Oh I know, Anonymous and I apologise – that is the problem with doing artists – and trying to keep reasonably in copyright.

    For most of history, it was jolly hard to be an artist or be remembered as one if you happened to be a woman.

    While all these chaps were sticking paint on canvas and getting lauded for it, I am sure equally talented women were weaving, embroidering and indeed painting. Or making carpets as I wrote about in a previous post.

    Grandma Moses was a Virgo, of course, but I wanted to look at her another time.

  3. Christina says:

    Another factor is who chooses to do self-portraits. With certain obvious exceptions (Frieda Kahlo for example), women artists tend not to have done so many.

    Back to Grandma Moses – could I find one on the web, no.

    But if you have suggestions for Virgo women artists who have done self portraits, please share.

    Interestingly enough there are plenty of Scorpios and Aries, in particular.

  4. Christine says:

    I LOVE the Burne-Jones! Who would have thought it? I want to see his chart now….