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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeCatalogues - Main Introduction Harvey-LeeThe Artist Mirrored


The Artist Mirrored, Elizabeth Harvey-LeeA selection of Artists’ printed Portraits & Self-Portraits

Though the medieval artist has come down to us as essentially an anonymous artisan and craftsman, it is thought that stone carvers and painters sometimes gave their own features to their creations, especially in such subjects as St Luke painting the Virgin. Even in an age of religious conviction of immortality, there was a desire to leave a permanent earthly record for posterity, at least of faces even if not identified by name.

Portraiture as a genre, and portraits of artists, in particular, emerged in the Renaissance, inspired by humanism and its concomitant cult of the individual.

As in medieval times, artists had also not generally been accorded a status above craftsmen in either ancient Greece or classical Rome, but exceptionally Pliny had extolled, in retrospect, the prowess of the Greek painter Apelles and the sculptor Praxiteles. The rediscovery of this antique text encouraged artists to aspire to a new intellectual status in the Liberal Arts as well as inspiring in their audience a new attitude of admiration for the creative artist.

It was an appreciation only partly based on the artist’s skill in reproducing the natural world, rendering tints and textures of skin, hair, lace, satin, velvet, the play of light and the ability to create in two dimensions the illusion of solid objects in three-dimensional space. Above all Renaissance Italy initiated a reverence for the ingenuity of the artist’s conceived design – his ability to express ideas through an allusive visual language which made him the equivalent to and equal of the poet and philosopher. The Renaissance artist had to be educated, to know and understand the significance of classical history and mythology, as well as the Bible, to be able to express himself in an iconography which spoke to a learned patron. In time ingenio, the Italian term that encompassed this talent developed into the concept of the artist as genius. Commensurately as artists became celebrities there developed a demand for information about their lives and a desire for their portraits.

In general painted portraits  preceded printed portraits by almost a century, but as in the 15th century printmaking was in its infancy this is not surprising. The earliest printed portrait is coincidentally probably the self-portrait with his wife engraved by Israhel van Meckenham c1490 (though in the immediately following few decades engraved portraits of scholars and statesmen more generally preceded the production of engraved portraits of artists).

Portraiture developed first in Germany and the Low Countries, followed by Venice, in keeping with the tenet that artists in northern climes were more interested in specific individual physical details and accurate rendering of the natural external world than their ‘idealising’ southern Italian confrères. This said, in the early decades of the 16th century, though they may have drawn or painted them, neither Dürer nor Cranach or their Northern contemporaries engraved self-portraits or portraits of fellow artists. Whereas exceptionally Raimondi in Rome engraved the portrait of Raphael, and Bandinelli commissioned first Agostino Veneziano and later Eneo Vico and Nicola della Casa to engrave his drawings of himself and his academy. Equally, Vasari’s ‘dictionary’ of artists predated van Mander’s by fifty years.

The Artist Mirrored, Elizabeth Harvey-LeeThe publication of written biographies of artists gave impetus to engraved portraits of artists. The Italian painter Georgio Vasari’s VITE (Lives of the most excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects) was first published in 1550. A second enlarged edition appeared in 1568. Inspired by the example of Vasari, the Flemish painter Karel van Mander published his HET SCHILDERBOECK (Book of Painters) in 1604. Part I comprised the biographies of artists from Germany and the Low Countries, while Part II was devoted to Italian artists in a condensed translation of Vasari, brought up to date from van Mander’s own information acquired in his four year’s stay in Italy 1573-77. (Part III was a painters’ manual.) The tradition continued in later centuries with Houbraken’s DE GROOTE SCHOUBURGH, published 1717-21, with biographies of 17th century Dutch artists and Horace Walpole’s ANECDOTES OF PAINTERS (working in England) published 1762-71.

Written texts soon suggested complementary visual representation. The publisher Hieronymous Cock in Antwerp probably began commissioning engravings of northern artists around 1550, though his series of about twenty portraits was not issued till 1572, by his widow. This series of plates of northern artists’ portraits was re-issued over the following century by a succession of subsequent publishers and prompted Hendrick Hondius to issue his own parallel PICTORUM ALIQUOT CELEBRIUM PRAECIPUAE GERMANIAE INFERIORIS EFFIGES (Portraits of celebrated Artists of the Low Countries) about 1610. Hondius re-engraved Cock’s portraits and updated the collection, to make it relevant to his contemporaries by adding artists who had worked in the four decades since 1572, to a total of seventy plates. The new Hondius plates innovatively showed the artists in their studios or with typical examples of their work.

The 17th century was one of the greatest centuries for artists’ portraits and self-portraits, witnessed in oil painting by Velasquez’ self-portrait painting ‘Las Meninas’ and fellow non-printmaker Vermeer’s self-portrait painting in his studio ‘Allegory of Painting’. Van Dyck and Rembrandt established their reputations as portrait painters, and both also etched portraits. Rembrandt was the first serial self-portraitist and his example inspired followers in later centuries. His self-portraits exhibit all the motives inherent in the genre, they are at times artistic statements, or self-promotion, or a record of a significant moment in his life, or simply exercises where he finds himself a convenient model to practice different expressions. In the mid-1660’s Leopold de’ Medici began collecting artists’ painted self-portraits. The ongoing collection was (and is) appropriately housed in the Uffizzi corridor built by Vasari. Celebrated artists continued to be commissioned for self-portraits into the 20th century.

The 17th century was also a significant one for the engraved portrait. Leoni in Italy was followed by van Dyck in Antwerp, whose 104 subjects in the 'Iconographia' included 69 artists. In France in the second half of the 17th century Nanteuil and Edilinck led a specialist school of portrait engravers who recorded great men of the French court, including their fellow artists.

Printed portraits of artists in the 17th and 18th centuries usually emphasise the artist’s status. He is presented as a gentleman, if not a nobleman, wearing such symbols of honour as gold chains or crosses; the picturesque impedimenta and paraphernalia of the studio banished, only to reappear in the new genre of group portraits of artists at work in the academy lifeclass. National academies for art were established across Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. The lifeclass was central to an artist’s progress; skill in figure drawing proved the artist in a system where history painting expressed through grand figure compositions was considered as the top of the artistic hierarchy.

Studio interiors occasionally reoccurr in the 19th and 20th centuries, in portraits of Bohemian artists. Romanticism and the breakdown of traditional patronage having given rise to a new concept of the artist outside society; the impoverished genius or rebel in a garret, in contrast to the successful, prosperous, conventional academic artist.

The invention of photography largely made illustrative portrait engravings, particularly reproductive engravings, obsolete. In response artists redirected their gaze to the inner reality as much as the external characteristics, expressed in the more painterly techniques of etching & drypoint, lithography and woodcut.

In the modern period the Germans have been the most prolific portrait printmakers. Some were particularly given to the serial self-portrait (Kollwitz, Corinth, Liebermann, Beckmann), while the French portrayed their friends more often than themselves. Manet made lithographs of Berthe Morisot, Degas etched Manet and Mary Cassatt, Pissarro etched Cézanne, Céanne etched Guillaumin, Renoir made a drypoint of Berthe Morisot and lithographed Rodin, Vuillard lithographed Cézanne etc.

The cosmopolitan Whistler was one of the most portrayed artists in print. He etched himself twice; Menpes made numerous drypoints studies of Whistler; Boldini and Helleu caught him in drypoint, Rajon and Way in lithography, Nicholson in woodcut.

In England Legros established a modern tradition of original portrait printmaking, which was continued by his pupil William Strang and complemented in the first two decades of the 20th century by Frances Dodd, E S Lumsden &c. But by the 1930’s Campbell Dodgson in his editorial to Fine Prints of the Year was lamenting the lack of portraiture and welcomed the young H A Freeth as an exception in his generation. From the late 1960’s through to the 1980’s David Hockney, exceptionally among his peers, revived the portrait print, a tradition continued by Lucien Freud.

Published 2002
80 pages, 132 items described and illustrated in black & white.

(UK Price: £10, International orders: £15)

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Index of Artists portrayed

  • Amigoni J
  • Arlaut J A
  • Badens F
  • Balen H van
  • Beckman M
  • Bella S della
  • Belleroche A
  • Bernini G
  • Bridgman A
  • Broeck C van den
  • Brouwer A
  • Carracci A
  • Carriera R
  • Cavalier d’Arpino
  • Cézanne
  • Chirico G de
  • Clark J B
  • Colquhoun R
  • Copley J
  • Corinth L
  • Cornelis van Haarlem C
  • Coxie M
  • Cuitt G (senr)
  • Daubigny C F
  • De Boissieu J J
  • Deruet C
  • Dou G
  • Dürer A
  • Dyck A van
  • Edwards E & W
  • Etty W
  • Friedrich L
  • Gibbs J
  • Gill E
  • Grosz G
  • Haden F S
  • Herkomer H von
  • Hoefnagel G
  • Hockney D
  • Holland W P
  • Holloway E
  • Howarth A
  • Israel S
  • Jaeckel W
  • Jazinski F
  • Jervas C
  • John A
  • Jones D
  • Jordaens J
  • Kalckreuthe L von
  • Kollwitz K
  • Lack H M
  • Laguerre L
  • Lambert G
  • Legros A
  • Lemoisne (Mme) P A
  • Lens B
  • Liebermann M
  • Liotard J E
  • Lippi L
  • Livens H M
  • Lombard L
  • Lucas van Leyden
  • Mabuse J (Gossaert)
  • MacNab I
  • Marini G
  • Matsys Q
  • McBey J
  • Mellan C
  • Menzel A von
  • Mercier P
  • Mignard P
  • Millais J E
  • Mohr A
  • Morisot B
  • Muyden E van
  • Orchardson W Q
  • Ostade A van
  • Pankok B
  • Philipp M E
  • Picasso P
  • Ploos van Amstel C
  • Pomerancio Il
  • Pond A
  • Pontius P
  • Poynter E
  • Ray-Jones R
  • Reisen C C
  • Rembrandt
  • Reni G
  • Reynolds J
  • Roncali C
  • Rubens P P
  • Rysbrack M
  • Sandby P
  • Schadow J C
  • Short F
  • Simpson
  • Slevogt M
  • Steenwyck H van
  • Strang W
  • Stubbs G
  • Tempesta A
  • Thornhill J
  • Tischler H
  • Tod M
  • Troost C
  • Underwood L
  • Enger W
  • Vanbrugh J
  • Vos W de
  • Vouet S
  • Wael L & C de
  • Watteau A
  • Weight C
  • Weirotter F E
  • West B
  • Whistler J M
  • Wildens J
  • Winckel R
  • Winniger F
  • Wolfsfeld E
  • Worlidge T
  • Zambaco M
  • Zincke F

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Artists included in the catalogue:

  • Amigoni J (after)
  • Baldinucci (after)
  • Bannerman A
  • Baudous R De
  • Beckmann M
  • Belleroche A
  • Blampied E
  • Boldini G
  • Bolswert S à
  • Bosse A
  • Bracquemond F
  • Bretheron J
  • Bridgman A (Mrs W Kempster)
  • Brockhurst G L
  • Brotherton C
  • Callot J
  • Carracci A (after)
  • Carriera R (after)
  • Chambers T
  • Chaplin C
  • Chirico G de
  • Clouet A
  • Colquhoun R
  • Cooper R
  • Copley J
  • Corinth L
  • Courboin F
  • Cuitt G
  • Dance G
  • Daniell W
  • De Boissieu J J
  • Drury P
  • Dyck A van
  • Dyck A van (after)
  • Edilinck G
  • Fantin de la Tour H
  • Freeth H A
  • Friedrich L
  • Frisius S
  • Gale W
  • Gill E
  • Gole J
  • Grosz G
  • Helt N de (after)
  • Herkomer H von
  • Hermann-Paul
  • Hockney D
  • Hogarth W (after)
  • Hollar W
  • Holloway E
  • Hondius H
  • Howarth A
  • Houbraken J
  • Hübner B
  • Hutin P
  • Ireland S
  • Jaeckel W
  • Jode P de
  • Josse C
  • Jungwierth F X
  • Kalckreuthe L von
  • Keene C
  • Keller J
  • Kilian L
  • Kneller G (after)
  • Kollwitz K
  • Lack H M
  • Lasinio C
  • Lebrun C (after)
  • Legros A
  • Leoni O M
  • Lépicié B
  • Leslie C M
  • Liebermann M
  • Livens H M
  • McBey J
  • Mellan C (after)
  • Mercier P
  • Millais J E
  • Mohr A
  • Monziès L
  • Muyden E van
  • Orchardson W Q (after)
  • Orde T (Lord Bolton)
  • Ostade A van (after)
  • Pankok B
  • Phillip M E
  • Pissarro C
  • Pontius P
  • Ray-Jones R
  • Rayner H
  • Rembrandt
  • Renoir P A
  • Reynolds J (after)
  • Reynolds S
  • Rigaud H (after)
  • Rothenstein W
  • Rubens P P (after)
  • Schalken G
  • Schmidt G F
  • Schmutzer J
  • Simpson J
  • Slevogt M
  • Strang W
  • Stuart G (after)
  • Tischler H
  • Troost C (after)
  • Underwood L
  • Unger W
  • Vallotton F
  • Vinkeles R
  • Vorsterman L
  • Wagner J
  • Waltner C A
  • Watson Caroline
  • Watson Charles
  • Watteau A (after)
  • Way T R
  • Weirotter F E (after)
  • Winckel R
  • Winniger F
  • Wolfsfeld E
  • Worlidge T
  • Worlidge T (after)
  • Zuccherelli F

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