Self-Portrait: Renaissance to Contemporary
Self-Portrait at the Easel Painting a Devotional Panel
by Sofonisba Anguissola, 1556
© Muzeum-Zarnek, Lancut, Poland
Past exhibition archive
20 October 2005 - 29 January 2006
Wolfson and Ground Floor Galleries
SELF-PORTRAIT Renaissance to Contemporary is the first large-scale exhibition to bring artists' own images together from across periods and places within the tradition of western painting. From Jan van Eyck to Jenny Saville, visitors will enjoy many portraits rarely seen outside the collections and cities in which they are permanently displayed. The appeal of this genre of painting is well known, and this exhibition explores the diversity of the image through which the artist is represented.
Sponsored by Channel 4, this major exhibition brings together a painted self-portrait by 56 of the world's greatest artists from 1433 right up to the present day, including 14 by women painters. Works by artists renowned for their self-portraits such as Rembrandt, van Gogh, Kahlo and Bacon will be included alongside works by less well-known artists such as Pieter van Laer, Johannes Gumpp and Hans Thoma, whose self-portraits are of exceptional quality and interest. The international range of artists represented includes Carracci, Velázquez, Hogarth, Kauffmann, Courbet, Warhol, Hopper, and Freud.
Focusing on the self-portrait through oils, SELF-PORTRAIT: Renaissance to Contemporary traces continuity and change in this genre over 500 years and the particular importance of the medium of oil paint to its development. It is especially concerned with the ways in which portrait likenesses can express the creativity and inventiveness of the artist. The exhibition includes seven early works from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, where the collection of self-portraits begun by the Medici - now displayed in the "Vasari corridor" - is the most important and famous group of self-portraits in the world. Other important loans come from the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. British loans come from the Royal Collection, The National Gallery, Tate, and English Heritage.
A new large self-portrait by the American artist Chuck Close has been painted especially for the exhibition. Chuck Close will also be talking to Tim Marlow about his career at 7pm on Friday 21 October at the Gallery in the first of a series of artists talks which accompany the exhibition.
This exhibition is jointly organised by the National Portrait Gallery, London and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. It is curated by Anthony Bond, Head Curator at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Dr Joanna Woodall of the Courtauld Institute of Art.
Publications & Gifts
- A fully illustrated book accompanies this international exhibition by curators Anthony Bond and Joanna Woodall, with further essays by T.J. Clark, Ludmilla Jordanova and Joseph Leo Koerner.
Exhibition price £30 (hardback) and £22.50 (paperback).
- A concise introduction to the Gallery's collection of self-portraits is also available, price £9.99.
Watch our playlist exploring scientific techniques used by the Gallery to unlock the secrets behind our Tudor portraits.
Subjects and themes
Search the collection by themes - from pets to weddings!
Black History Month
Take a tour exploring our Collection created by Alayo Akinkugbe for Black History Month in 2020.
A Picture of Health
Learn about pioneers in medicine, health and social reform from 1840 to 1920.