Libra Self-Portraits: Blending into the Picture

Friday October 21st 2011
Suzanne Valadon (23 Sept 1865)

Theoretically, there’s nothing more revealing of character than a self-portrait, yet this month’s artists don’t do that straightforwardly. Their own faces blend into the backgrounds of the pictures, becoming simply part of the motif.

Compare this to the Cancers, for example, whose souls look out of the canvas.

With Librans, it’s the complete picture which tells a story. I wonder if this to do with the Sun (ego) being in fall in the sign of the scales. The self is not loudly or directly expressed. I wouldn’t describe Libra Sun as self-effacing, exactly, but they can often only find meaning in their relationship to the other, the opposite.

These portraits are curiously indifferent to character, but fascinated by the artistic act itself. Venus (art) rules here of course, but she is in air, the intellectual as well as the social element.

Suzanne Valadon did a lot of self-portraits. I love this one. The more you look at it, the more complex and strange it is – with her head in the upper left corner and a mess of blue marks in the foreground.

Pierre Bonnard (Oct 3,1867

Pierre Bonnard decorated his canvases, flattening perspective, turning them into a singing harmony of colour and texture. In this picture, he hardly seems to be looking at himself as a person, simply observing the effect of his head in the shade against a brightly lit background.

Umberto Boccioni (October 19, 1882)

And the futurist Umberto Boccioni has painted himself like a snapshot, again quite flat. In fact, I wonder if he made this picture from a photograph. He seems to be squinting into the sun. This picture rather echoes the Bonnard with it’s expanse of cream.

Alberto Giacometti (10 Oct, 1901)
Gaudier Brzeska (Oct 4, 1891)

This is interesting. Both of these artists, Henri Gaudier Brzeska and Alberto Giacometti were primarily sculptors. In real life Giacometti was thin and wiry just like his work. But here we can see that he could really draw and paint.

If you’re still wondering about the self-portrait turning into a pattern I’ll leave you with Robert Rauschenberg.


Robert Rauschenberg (October 22, 1925)

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  1. diastella says:

    that was a great piece – this is unusual for me with lots of Scorpio – but seeing what Boccioni looks like completely alters the way I look at his paintings….also Bonnard and Giacometti, but particularly Umberto – he’s beautiful! For some reason he appeared thuggish in my mind, mechanised and brutish. I had no idea he was a lyrical, patterned, colourful human.

  2. Christina says:

    I know exactly what you mean diatella about Boccioni. There’s another great self-portrait by him on wikipedia. In this he looks romantic and young and indeed sexy.