Edward STEICHEN<br/>
<em>Steichen and wife Clara on their honeymoon</em> (1903); (1981) {printed} <!-- (image only) --><br />
from the <i>Early years</i> portfolio, 1900-27<br />
photogravure<br />
17.6 x 20.5 cm (image) 50.6 x 39.9 cm (sheet)<br />
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Purchased, 1984<br />
PH306-1984<br />
© Edward Steichen Est./ARS, New York. Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

The Naked Face


Free entry

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square

Temporary Exhibition (Gallery 17), Level 3

3 Dec 10 – 27 Feb 11

This unique exhibition reveals how self-portraits have shaped our perceptions of art and the artist’s life. Works are displayed in themes exploring the potential for self-portraits to re-evaluate identity. Drawn entirely from the National Gallery of Victoria’s collection, the exhibition demonstrates its extraordinary range and depth. A rich diversity of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, installations and fashion illustrates one of the most constant subjects in Western art and includes significant cross-cultural examples.

Many self-portraits are conscious performances in which artists play a role, emphasising professional identity or casting the artist as bohemian, philosopher or adventurer. Others, including works by Zoffany, Picasso and Grayson Perry, expand the artist’s sense of self through identification with symbolic myth and narrative, often depicting the artist’s special access to creativity, insight and energy. Most self-portraits depict a process of self-examination. Rather than a predictable image, the mirror presents an opportunity for searching and analysis of the self. Examples by artists from Rembrandt to Ric Amor depict how self-scrutiny has evolved. Yet depicting the self can also be a way of camouflaging or protecting the self. Works by Clemente, Close and Sherman show how a self-portrait can act as a mask, asserting a surface or public persona and implying hidden depths.

Self-portraits are not only confined to the artist but evoke their connections with others or a wider world. An amused, ecstatic and emotional range of works show how artists depict themselves with family or loved ones, or as immersed in nature in a way that augments their sense of self. The exhibition concludes with a radical view of how self-portraits embody the artist, not only by revealing the direct trace of the artist’s hand but also the personal imprint of their bodily presence.

The exhibition creates provocative connections between a wide-ranging selection of works, some highly recognised, others rarely seen. It includes iconic examples by artists such as Rembrandt and Andy Warhol, whose self-portrayals have dramatically contributed to their celebrity status. Examples by Australian artists, including Hugh Ramsay and Mike Parr, and contemporary artists are viewed in the context of the illuminating history of self-portrayal from the Renaissance to today.

Dr Vivien Gaston is Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne.

Select Works

Francesco CLEMENTE
I 1982
colour woodcut
36.0 x 51.0 cm (image) 42.7 x 57.1 cm (sheet)
ed. 84/100
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1986
© Francesco Clemente
Portrait group: The singer Farinelli and friends (c. 1750-1752)
oil on canvas
172.8 x 245.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1950
REMBRANDT Harmensz. van Rijn
Self-portrait with curly hair and white collar: bust (c. 1629)
5.6 x 4.9 cm (plate) 5.9 x 5.1 cm (sheet)
2nd of 2 states
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Everard Studley Miller Bequest, 1961
Self-portrait no. 9 1986
synthetic polymer paint and screenprint on canvas
203.5 x 203.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the National Gallery Women's Association, Governor, 1987
© Andy Warhol/ARS, New York. Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia
Self-portrait, 25/2/2002 (2002)
gelatin silver photogram
(47.8 x 57.5 cm) (image) (49.8 x 59.9 cm) (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Mem Kirby, Fellow, 2002
© Ruth Maddison
Darren Siwes
Give way (2000)
type C photograph
103.1 x 128.1 cm (image) 105.0 x 135.8 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2001
© Darren Siwes/Copyright Agency, 2023
Self-portrait in white jacket (1901-1902)
oil on canvas
92.3 x 73.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through the NGV Foundation by Nell Turnbull, niece of the artist and by her children John Fullerton, Patricia Fullerton and Fiona Fullerton, Founder Benefactors, 2002
Steichen and wife Clara on their honeymoon (1903); (1981) {printed}
from the Early years portfolio, 1900-27
17.6 x 20.5 cm (image) 50.6 x 39.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1984
© Edward Steichen Est./ARS, New York. Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia