The Self Portrait: A Cultural History

Hardcover | April 22, 2014

byJames Hall

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This broad cultural history of self-portraiture brilliantly maps the history of the genre, from the earliest myths of Narcissus and the Christian tradition of “bearing witness” to the prolific self-image-making of today’s contemporary artists.

Focusing on a perennially popular subject, the book tells the vivid history of works that offer insights into artists’ personal, psychological, and creative worlds. Topics include the importance of the medieval mirror craze in early self-portraiture; the confessional self-portraits of Titian and Michelangelo; the mystique of the artist’s studio, from Vermeer to Velázquez; the role of biography and geography for serial self-portraitists such as Courbet and Van Gogh; the multiple selves of modern and contemporary artists such as Cahun and Sherman; and recent developments in the era of globalization.

Comprehensive and beautifully illustrated, the book features the work of a wide range of artists including Beckmann, Caravaggio, Dürer, Gentileschi, Ghiberti, Giotto, Goya, Kahlo, Kauffman, Magritte, Mantegna, Picasso, Poussin, Raphael, Rembrandt and Van Eyck. The full range of the subject is explored, including comic and caricature self-portraits, “invented” or imaginary self-portraits, and important collections of self-portraiture such as that of the Medici.

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From the Publisher

This broad cultural history of self-portraiture brilliantly maps the history of the genre, from the earliest myths of Narcissus and the Christian tradition of “bearing witness” to the prolific self-image-making of today’s contemporary artists. Focusing on a perennially popular subject, the book tells the vivid history of works that off...

James Hall is an art historian, lecturer, and broadcaster, and is a visiting research fellow at the University of Southampton in England. He is the author of four critically acclaimed books.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9.23 × 6.33 × 1.22 inPublished:April 22, 2014Publisher:WW NortonLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:050023910X

ISBN - 13:9780500239100

Customer Reviews of The Self Portrait: A Cultural History

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Editorial Reviews

Think selfies are a new phenomenon? Think again. In Hall’s cultural history of self-portraiture, you’ll find everyone from Michelangelo to Titian to Cindy Sherman. — Entertainment Weekly[A] splendidly written and valuable study of one of the most psychologically revealing genres in art history. — Gallery & StudioKnowing why artists like Rembrandt and Courbet [created self-portraits] is at the heart of art historian James Hall’s book. . . . Hall’s writing is not only accessible for a general audience, but filled with notable insights, including spicy, prurient ones. — The Daily BeastJames Hall’s brilliant book . . . traces the evolution and aesthetic development of the form, from Flemish painter Jan van Eyck to Diego Velázquez’s ‘Las Meninas.’ — Al Jazeera AmericaThe variety of expression on display here is amazing. . . . Hall carefully unpacks the portraits . . . with anecdotes and histories that bring a new understanding to a vital part of artistic endeavor. — The Commercial DispatchHall shows that the creation of self-portraits is a deep-rooted aspect of the creative impulse. — Art EyewitnessArt historian James Hall examines the genre of self-portraiture from the Middle Ages to the present, contextualizing the tradition in relation to the cultural climate of its time. This clear, well-researched book is an exceptional choice for everyone from the general reader to the expert in art history. — Library JournalA lovely object in itself. . . . The text is informative and accessible. — Portland Book ReviewFeatures major artists, mostly European, exhibiting themselves in a variety of modes, mostly pictorial, all complemented by effective, descriptive passages in well-wrought prose. . . . Recommended. — ChoiceJames Hall provides a lively cultural interpretation of the genre from the Middle Ages to today. But rather than provide a series of ‘greatest hits,’ he is more concerned with the reasons why artists create self-portraits. — The Weekly StandardWhile numerous texts have been written about many of the individual artists (and their self-portraits) the scope of the text is unique. . . . [The] inclusion of lesser known artists and media is one of the strengths of Hall’s research, and the historic context provided demonstrates his extensive knowledge. — ARLIS/NA ReviewsThis broad cultural survey...shows us how art inspired by the artist's own image has been part of our tradition for centuries....Beautifully illustrated. — Professional ArtistHall intelligently and succinctly analyzes centuries of cultural history, and if the book doesn't much suggest where we're going, it does an exceptional job of pointing out where we've been. — Santa Barbara Independent