Segments in this Video

Confusing Exhibitionism with Exhibition (03:38)


Contemporary self-portraiture has come to a point where people present themselves as art whilst living disastrously. Self-exhibitionism is a new type of confession as artists or would-be artists grapple with vanity and honesty in self-portraiture.

Painting a Self-Portrait (04:45)

In the mid-13th century, a Christian artist William de Brailes created a lavishly decorated book of psalms and claimed authorship on its cover with a self-portrait. His illustrations of the bible brought the stories to life and he became famous for his images of demons wearing loincloths.

First Oil Self-Painting (03:11)

The first known full self-portrait created in England was made in a prison cell by German artist Gerlach Flicke. Flicke shared his prison cell with a pirate and was likely imprisoned for reasons he did not understand.

Comforts in Prison (02:18)

Flicke's work is complete with careful inscriptions above the portraits of himself and his cellmate, Henry Strangway. Flicke wrote his own inscription in Latin, reporting that he painted the portrait with a mirror in the hopes that his friends would remember his countenance after his death.

Extravagance of Art (02:54)

English painter Isaac Fuller was not sure whether he wanted to be an entertainer or a painter. He decided to paint as popular entertainment, creating elaborate depictions which he intended to be a new kind of history painting.

Wasted Potential (02:29)

Fuller created a self-portrait with remarkable technique, a portrait that claims Fuller's place in nobility. Ironically, Fuller was jobless and not noble.

Palmerian Power (03:48)

During the Romantic Age, self-exploration and the notion of finding oneself became popularized. In this period, English painter Samuel Palmer left London in favor of the town of Shoreham where he painted a self-portrait using white chalk to give light to his rendition of himself.

Finding Her Artistic Self (03:54)

Palmer's work became less original over time and progressed into respectable territory. In Victorian England women were expected to be feminine and not artistic. Laura Knight broke free of this stipulation, winning a scholarship to the Nottingham School of Art. She traveled to Cornwall to take haven in a place more open to artists.

Sisterhood Collaboration (04:06)

In Cornwall, Knight's friends posed for her and she was able to develop her artistic abilities without the stuffiness of England. Eventually, she created a portrait that depicted a nude female figure: a painting of a woman, by a woman.

Orpen's Costumes (03:10)

At the start of the 20th century, member of the Chelsea Arts Club, Irishman William Orpen painted himself as a jockey, a painter, a hunter, and partied when he was not painting. He created a painting called "Ready to Start" featuring himself in a portrait featuring whiskey bottles.

Investigations of the Artistic Self (02:41)

After Orpen was sent to fight in World War I, he became a major via social connections. The war changed him and he no longer believed that humanity was capable of anything. He adopted a jaded view that humanity simply kills humanity.

Tormented, Fragmented Soul (02:12)

After the war, Orpen had a successful career as an artist, but he was forever changed and fragmented. His final self-portrait exhibits the discontent he felt and his disintegrated sense of self.

The Self: A Chimera (04:00)

From the 1940s to the 1950s, painter Lucian Freud avoided painting sentimental works, until the 1960s when his work became warmer. He attempted to match the texture of oil paint to that of human flesh. He continued to avoid painting emotions.

Nothing but the Naked Truth (02:36)

Freud's works depicted the way age affects the countenance with wrinkles, redness, and crevices. Self-portraiture remains a powerful art form.

Universal Human Condition (03:46)

A deserted beach on the coast of Britain boasts impassive statues that create a self-portrait sculpture scene by Antony Gormley. The statues are body casts of Gormley, multiplied by 100 and planted across the beach, facing the ocean without faces.

Credits: The Face in the Mirror: Episode 5—The Face of Britain (00:40)

Credits: The Face in the Mirror: Episode 5—The Face of Britain

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The Face in the Mirror: Episode 5—The Face of Britain

Part of the Series : The Face of Britain
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The evolution of portraiture inevitably led to self-portraiture, as Simon Schama explores in the fifth episode of The Face of Britain. Art took on a different meaning in the 13th century when William de Brailes became the first artist to attach an image of himself to his work as a sort of signature, thereby acknowledging his credibility and advancing the idea of painting self-portraits. Learn about the popularization of the art form during the Romantic age and artists like Laura Knight who pioneered self-portraiture for women.

Length: 51 minutes

Item#: BVL115636

ISBN: 978-1-63521-075-0

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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