Thursday, February 09, 2017

Edward Munch

Self-Portrait With Cigarette

An early experiment with the "selfie."  Self-portraits are nothing new.  Painters going back centuries represented themselves in art, but it's more than that too.  The self-portrait is as much an exploration of self.  A selfie on a mobile phone takes only seconds to sort out, the angle and the pose and what-not.  It takes even less time to delete it forever if it doesn't tell the story we wish it to.  A painting, however, requires more forethought and when you visit the galleries of self-portraiture over the years you discover quickly that the goal wasn't always to capture the most flattering light.  Munch, Van Gogh and even Edward Hopper, three painters of three distinctly separate generations, were excavating truths about themselves, whereas a selfie on a mobile is often about illusion.  Honesty is given the front seat.  It's still egoism but certainly not self-flattery.  It's the artist inside-out, rather than a surface representation.  Munch (and others) were willing to go deep and dark for the sake of honesty.  Any memoir, pictorial or written, should aspire to honesty, even when it's downright ugly.  

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