Self Portrait Essay

CHICAGO — The selfie is a smartphone-produced version of the self-portrait, which has been a staple of art and photography history since artists first began seeing examining their own images in the mirror.

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Much like Courbet, she paints her cheeks rosy; her gaze drifts to the side, never catching the viewers’ eye in a similar way as contemporary artist Peregrine Honig’s twin boys.

Kahlo’s pet monkey reminds me of Paris Hilton’s monkey Baby Luv, which notoriously attacked her in 2005 and was declared illegal in 2009.

Nowadays the famous artist is grouped into the teen-girl tumblr aesthetic, and her self-portrait becomes a selfie through gif-ification.

Here we see an early full-on unibrow self-portrait from 1937 entitled Fulang-Chang and I (Fulang-Chang y yo), in which Frida paints herself with her spider monkey pet.

But selfies are not necessarily self-empowering; through their social network dissemination, they appear decontextualized, awash in a sea of internet anonymity. Put your smartphone away (or let it die, like I just did), take a look in a John Berger-esque way, and remember what life was like before those mini-interruptions that we like to call i Messages, texts and ongoing gchat-like conversations presented you with more faces that you’d care even to see IRL.

The Spanish painter Goya was no stranger to self-portraiture.

© 2004 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

(image via Flickr; information via Jewish Museum)The Dada and Surrealist artist Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky) was known for his avant-garde images (before the avant-garde died!

We hope Courbet brushed up on his handsome handlebar mustache after this portrait, for it serves as a reminder that those things take work.

His slightly rosy cheeks, however, glow in that kind of manic pixie dream girl way, as he “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures,” as originally stated by the film critic Nathan Rabin.


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