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Selfies in London | Self-Portraits by Contemporary Painters
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Selfies in London | Self-Portraits by Contemporary Painters

Picture of Isabel Morrish
Updated: 13 September 2016
Inspired by the enigmatic concept of the ‘self-portrait’ seen in the recent Rembrandt: The Late Works and upcoming Goya: The Portraits at the National Gallery, London’s Fine Art Commissions decided to set its artists the challenge of turning the paintbrush inwards and depicting themselves. Coinciding with the BP Portrait Award at London’s National Portrait Gallery, an annual highlight of the art calendar, the exhibition emphasises the genre’s impressive diversity in terms of both purpose and style.

There is a fantastic variety of work on display, including a self-portrait by the royal portrait painter Nicky Philipps. She uses the traditional sight-size technique and has painted the portrait of HM the Queen that hangs in the throne room at Buckingham Palace, as well as the Princes and Falklands war veteran Simon Weston, which are part of the National Portrait Gallery collection.

Also on display is the avant-garde approach of New York-based artist Tom Leveritt, who depicts himself in the reflection of a chalice.

Self-portraiture holds a particular power in the history of art, encapsulating the unique moment when the artist capitalises on a rare sense of freedom as both subject and creator. The self-portrait is a fascinating form of personal and public self-advertisement, and the motives behind it transcend simply offering a window into the soul of the artist, ranging from political commentary and declarations of personal legacy or social status to illustrations of physicality and the playful demonstration of skill.

This exhibition highlights the continuing poignancy of self-portraiture as a visual genre, closely connected to intriguing questions of identity and technique.

‘Selfie’ runs until July 3rd 2015 at Fine Art Commissions, 34 Duke Street, St James’s, London, SW1Y 6DF, UK, +44207 839 2792.

Isabel Morrish