There was another fascinating BBC4 programme on Monday evening called Ego: The Strange and Wonderful World of Self-Portraits.
I only caught about half of it, and mean to watch it on iPlayer over the weekend. Below are the things that struck me, but there was a lot more. I hope you’ll watch it over the next few days, and share your thoughts and impressions on WeAreOCA.
The presenter, Laura Cummings, explored how self-portraits through the ages reveal “how artists saw themselves and how they wanted to be known to the world” and the “various ways artists have managed to get their inner and outer selves to match up.” They say: This is who I am. This is what I do. This is where I stand in society. See me painting — I am an artist, and a woman! I have a turbulent past — my eye sockets are in shadow, there are dramatic highlights on my brow. I am a teller of the uncompromising truth — I choose to show my worst profile and paint in detail the wart on my cheek…
With Rembrandt, there is an extra dimension. We can see he is looking inwards. As well as the visual clues about his status and character, he is transmitting what it feels like from within to be himself. And what it feels like to be aging, to look back over a lifetime of experiences, to be aware that the inner and the outer self doesn’t quite match up. Cummings said that there is a debate as to whether Rembrandt could have been so self-aware in an age before Freud and Jung started to explore and up open up the previously uncharted territory of our minds. But Cummings was sure — he knew. And we can see that he knew.
What did you think of the programme? Looking forward to your comments.