Chapter 4. Self portraits

Vincent gave himself for his art

Rain or snow a mirror always shows a grizzled landscape that’s always different. Where in the light on the cheek or in the eye is the weakness that defeats the artist in him?

Rembrandt was worried

He wore his brown woolen hat and his heavy leather coat because he couldn’t afford to heat his studio. Painting let him forget why he had no commissions, but the worry stayed there on his brow.

Pablo painted himself without a brush

In his self-portrait of 1906, Pablo held a palette in his left hand but he held no brush in his right. His fingers had paint on them, but the hand held no brush. This was a painting of a boy. He was only sixteen.

Frida worked with what she had

Frida’s husband was often away and she was an invalid so it was hard for her to get out. She dressed in a full orange skirt, red blouse, and gold shawl, and imagined she were stepping out from between the white curtains at a reception for Leon Trotsky with a pink rose in her hair.

Katsushika drew an old man in black ink

Katsushika drew an old man wearing a rumpled robe sitting cross-legged. His thin hair is wild; his hands are gnarled. He points to his right while talking to someone at his left. This is Katsushika himself at the age of eighty three, drawn in black ink with brush and pen.