Rembrandt von Rijn painted about 50 paintings of himself as well as 32 etchings and 7 drawings he created on the same subject. In this age of the “selfie” many may be inclined to think that this predilection is self-indulgent but I don’t think this is the case with Rembrandt.
First of all, in the 17th Century such artwork was not even classified as a “self portrait.”
Often painters did paintings of themselves because it was easier than getting a model to sit for them.
In Rembrandt’s case the “self portraits” are so objective that it is very obvious that he was not intending to create a flattering representation. These portraits which create a sort of visual diary span four decades and more than anything show his evolution as a painter and artist. His last “selfies” not only depict the artist as he aged but show just how much his art had changed. His painting became more free and the slick realism of his early work transformed into a very modern and indeed almost futuristic style that in many ways can compare to the Impressionistic work to come two centuries later. For me, these works give new meaning to the word “introspection.”
In my pursuits as an autodidact I find that one discovery leads to another and that this rather circuitous path never seems to end. So the more I search the more I “discover.”
For instance, my intense interest in the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) led to my stumbling upon Carel Fabritius. Fabritius came slightly before Vermeer and both were painters from Delft. In fact, many think Vermeer was strongly influenced by Fabritius even though Fabritius left few paintings.
The cover of my limited edition CD called “Rara Avis” has a painting by Carel Fabritius called “The Goldfinch.” This painting again appears on the inside of the “Quintessence” package, It is considered to be one of his handful of masterpieces and this painting of quiet perfection fits the title “Rara Avis” perfectly.
Fabritius was only 32 years old when he was killed in the tragic munitions explosion in Delft on October 12, 1654. The only biography of Vermeer I know of begins with the Delft explosion and some biographical background on Delft and Carel Fabritius.
Somehow all of this information and the works of various artists that catch my interest influence me. As always, I am drawn to those artists who endeavor to express what Maurice Ravel called “life’s mysterious thrill.”