Sagittarian Self Portraits: Confident
Truthfulness is a Sagittarius quality — for good or bad. Maybe that is why they make such brilliant self-portraits.
There is the German-Swedish painter Lotte Laserstein with a tabby cat comfortably nestled on her arm. Her gaze is a little sardonic, but quite confident thank you, as perhaps she must have been since she was one of the early female graduates from art school in Prussia.
Here is the Polish painter Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, also looking frankly and with a little humour straight into the viewer’s eyes. She needed that Sagittarian confidence too, since she was one of just a handful of female artists working in Paris at the time.
There’s a darkness to Sagittarius. Often it’s hidden behind a bold front – a big belly, a tornado of talk or just loudness.
Sagittarius is the first sign of the zodiac to be represented by a mythical creature, a centaur, half human, half wild. The tutelary deity of this sign is Diana, goddess of the hunt, also half wild. And often Sagittarians seem like that, like half-tame beasts in you drawing room, as they knock over the flowers and insult your partner. They strain at the leash, and civilised like sometimes gets them down – whether or not they know it.
Lucien Freud – old, saggy, craggy, wearing a pair of unlaced boots – holds a palette knife in one hand lifted in gesture at the canvas we look at. I think this is his masterpiece. It’s merciless, ugly. He looks at himself and sees man as monster. He’s famous, of course, for his portraits of other people. But those never reveal the character of the sitter; they simply show Freud’s loathing of humanity and his agility with a paintbrush. In this self-portrait, he reveals himself boldly. Did he like himself?
|Bernini, 7 Dec|
Here is another Sagittarian looming out of the darkness. Edvard Munch saw monsters too. Here he is surrounded by shadows. A while ago I went to a seminar with Frank Clifford who mentioned that he often found Sagittarians, contrary to what you read in the astrology books, were prone to depression. I have found this too. I know more people with strongly Sagittarian charts who are on prescription drugs or who self-medicate than any other sign except maybe Pisces. This is interesting because both are ruled by the king of jollity, Jupiter. I should add that the two people at the seminar who did have strong Sagittarius in their charts were both perfectly happy and full of benison, which just goes to show that you can use this energy positively or negatively.
One reason for this depressive tendency is that Sagittarius has such high expectations of life’s adventure.
|Paul Klee – hardly sees himself|
as human at all.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini also emerges from the darkness in this magnificent self-portrait from around 1623. He’s best remembered for his stunning, dynamic sculptures. You are probably familiar with his St Teresa. Here is his interpretation of the Medusa, her beautiful features drawn with pain as she realises her fate. He seemed to have an understanding of the inner beast.
|Wassily Kandinsky – an|
icon of himself.
And then there’s Sagittarius the professor, the teacher, the lecturer. Probably the most famous art school of the 20th century was the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany. It was founded by the architect Walter Gropius in 1919 and closed by the Nazis in 1933. The ideas taught there still influence the way we see the world and are taught about art today.
Two key professors? Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, both serious, daring artists in their own rights as well the inspirers of generations of art students.
At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, larger than life Diego Rivera husband of the equally famous Frida Kahlo (Cancer) was making art that would inspire generations of Mexican artists. He was a famous bon viveur, of course, fat, greedy, womanising, full of life – the embodiment of Jupiter himself. Hell to be married to, of course. But in this portrait he looks like a professor.
Another artists’ union, between Picasso (Scorpio) and Francoise Gilot (Sagittarius), caused something of a sensation mid-century. He was old enough to be her grandpa. The relationship overshadowed the strength of Gilot’s work. This self-portrait seems to be all about freedom – another preoccupation of the centaur.
|Francoise Gilot (Nov 26)|
And there is great joy to Sagittarius too. My favourite Sagittarius portraitist, without equal, is the White Russian painter Zinaida Serebriakova. Her self-portraits — and there are many — are stunning. They show Sagittarius in her exuberance, self-mockery; in her confidence and mastery. There is so much humour and joie de vivre in her work.