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Self, Body and Portrait

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Self, Body and Portraiture Portraiture has always been a central point of visual art. As a western society do not let the idea of body slip from our mind, in fact it is perfectly plausible to say a human being, typically, by modern day nature will think of self from minute one to the last minute. We do not ignore ourselves. As a species we are self involved, fair to say vain, and conscious of body. Whether we are concerned with our own bodies, wrinkles, fat, size, shapes, marks, etc, you name it; we have it and are perfectly aware. We compare, we copy, we despise, we laugh, we cry, and all because of body. It is most certainly the biggest obsession in the world today. This obsession will continue, and take over lives and minds as it is already doing. One of the most fascinating art forms is, and always will be - portraiture, family, fame, regal, poor or rich. An artist's most mysterious ideas come from within portraiture. A passage written by John Berger, in his book "Ways of Seeing" states, "in portraiture an artist can put across personality traits and characterisations. The penetrating characterisations seduce us into believing that we know the personality traits." John Berger The body has always been an important aspect of portraiture. In the past the gestures and disposition of the body vary in many different ways. The face is seen to be a marker of identity and as the entrance the soul; whereas bodies can often be more conventional than the individual's idea. In the last decades of the twentieth century in portraiture there has been a strong emphasis on the body. As with issues of social and private identity, the body has been subjected to new social pressures and expectations that have found their ay into the wider concerns of the artists. There is huge emphasis on face and surface in Western Capitalist society and the contrasting power of the body in "primitive" societies and culture. ...read more.


By the twentieth century, a fascination with the private lives of famous artists increased the tendency of artists to write their own memoirs and to express their view of themselves in self - portraits. Some artists, like the Viennese Oskar Kokoschka, did both. Oskar Kokoschka - Self - portrait David Hockney is one such artist whose work has an autobiographical flavour. In his early career he frequently made visual reference to his life as art student and as a young man struggling to come to terms with his sexual identity. Hockney's self - portraits signal specific moments of his life, which may have been private or meaningful only to him. However, the fame he achieved at a relatively young age meant that the audience for his private view of himself is vast, and it is an audience that knows enough about Hockney's life to be able to relate his work to his private circumstances. In his self - portraiture such as "The Student: Homage to Picasso", Hockney shows himself dressed as a trendy art student observing an oversized bust of Picasso as if he is viewing an object in an art gallery or the effigy of a God in a temple. The Student: Homage to Picasso - David Hockney The self - portrait is a fantasy of Hockney's first definitive encounter with Picasso's work at a retrospective exhibition held at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1960. The Homage here is both public and private and the autobiographical reference to a moment in his influential years is thus overwhelmed by an image that carries greater symbolic, as well as personal significance. This is one of Hockey's less intimate views of his own life. He produced other works, which refer to his initially secret sexuality, but interestingly many of these were not conceived as self - portraits. Hockney's work offers a view of a definitive moment in his life, but the way he imagines that moment, as well as the nature of self - portrait, avoids moving into self - narrative. ...read more.


Portraits of family members were an important component of art collections from the ancient world, but there are a number of cases of collectors who sought out and gathered portraits as the main focus of their acquisitiveness. It is a notable point that some of the first, earliest galleries were galleries of portraiture. From it's origins in the skull cults of ancient Jericho, portraiture has retained certain key features and undergone many changes. Portraiture has always involved a work of art that is meant to represent or convey in some way a named individual. Portraiture has always had a sort of charming power. It has also served functions that other works of art have not, and it overlaps with philosophical and psychological issues in a way that is unique to its genre. However, unlike the late twentieth century, portraiture was largely a Western phenomenon that reflected concerns with individual character in ways that were alien to many cultures. With a greater globalisation of Western Culture, portraiture is no longer narrowly confined to the Western World. With this geographical expansion portraiture has also changed in other ways. Portraits now appear in all types of media and they serve many different purposes. Portraits are still produced for the purpose of conveying likeness and for documenting the appearance, status or profession of individuals and organisations to be displayed publicly. They remain important signals of family affection, friendship or group solidarity. They still serve as vehicles for artistic self - exploration and technical experiment. But portraiture has also become a method for artists to explore self - conscious issues of gender, ethnicity, sexuality and the body. With globalisation, the expansion of media and co - existence of old and new functions, portraiture at the beginning of the twenty first century has become a genre of art that has more versatile and representational possibilities and functions than ever before. Mercedes Simpson, Unit 5 3500 word contextual essay Self - portrait inspired by Arnulf Rainer ...read more.

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