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Insights: Self-portraits

Self-Portraits cover Self-Portraits cover Self-Portraits cover

Out of print

Liz Rideal

Artists' self-portraits are critical to our understanding of both portraiture and the history of art. They are the form in which many artists have come to be remembered, offering insights into their lives, surroundings, and even their state of mind.

But what motivates a painter or photographer to record themselves? In this wide-ranging new book, Liz Rideal examines the diverse purposes that self-portraiture serves. With over ninety illustrations, she demonstrates how artists have recorded their likenesses variously - to advertise their skills, to practise their craft, to explore their inner turmoils and desires, and to transmit to posterity a signature image.

Eight fascinating chapters highlight themes including the role of mirrors, the ageing process, the importance of clothing and the significance of depicting oneself alongside other people. Drawing on recent self-portraits as well as historic works, the book proves that examining questions of identity through self-image remains a compelling contemporary theme.

Lively and informative, this book features not only great works of art but also intriguing studies in psychology and self-perception. The artists represented include William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, Angelica Kauffmann, John Constable, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Cecil Beaton, Barbara Hepworth, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, and Tracey Emin.

Published to complement A Question of Identity: Self-Portrait Photographs 1850-2000 display in the Bookshop Gallery from 20 September 2005 to 29 January 2006 and the major SELF PORTRAIT: Renaissance to Contemporary exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 2005 to 29 January 2006 and at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 17 February to 14 May 2006.

National Portrait Gallery Insights
New series

National Portrait Gallery Insights is a new series of illustrated books on literary and artistic personalities and themes, based on the collections of the National Portrait Gallery. Commissioned to demonstrate the significance of portraits when discussing history, art history and biography, each book has been beautifully designed by leading international design consultancy Pentagram Design and features over eighty exquisite stunning illustrations.

This innovative new series aims to explore the ways in which groups of people are drawn together - whether by birth, via education or through their artistic and intellectual vision - to make a powerful impact on cultural history. Written by well-known authors in their field, this exciting series provides a compelling way of exploring British history and biography.

This product is supplied by the National Portrait Gallery Company Limited. For more information on the Company, click here. Every purchase supports the National Portrait Gallery.

Liz Rideal is an artist, curator and lecturer at both the Slade School of Art and the National Portrait Gallery, where she curated Mirror, Mirror: Self-portraits by women artists . Her recent commissioned artworks have been for the BBC Broadcasting House Public Art Programme.


210 x 140mm, 112 pages
90 colour illustrations, 15,000 words
ISBN 1 85514 363 1
£9.99 (hardback)
Published October 2005

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