Marc Chagall was introduced to printmaking in Berlin in 1922, at the age of thirty-five. The autobiographical portfolio My Life marked the artist’s first serious foray into printmaking, and he completed this suite of etchings within three weeks. My Life drew on Chagall’s vivid memories of his childhood in the Russian village of Vitebsk, and included images of the artist, his family, his childhood home, and his neighbors. In this self-portrait, Chagall presents himself as literally comprised of these elements of family—represented by his wife, child, and parents making up his torso—and home—symbolized by the house balancing atop his head.
Artists have long turned to their own image as a subject. A means of self-exploration, self-portraiture allows artists to portray themselves according to their own wishes, sometimes focusing on their exterior likeness or on their inner personality. Self-portraits provide for more experimentation than portraits of others, since the artist has no external client to please. Many self-portraits are created as a form of self-promotion, intended to demonstrate the artist’s status and skill.
From the exhibition, Artists on Artists, on view through July 29.
Marc Chagall (French, born in Russia, 1887–1985)
Self-Portrait, no. 17 from the series Mein Leben, 1922
Gift of Hazel B. King, 1951.32
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