Famous Self-Portraits

By Kwabena Okyire Appianing •  Updated: 05/06/22 •  6 min read

It was only after the 15TH century that self -portraiture became an integral part of an artists’ repertoire.  Before then, artists were quite shy when it came to self-portraits. The most common thing was to see an artist render a small likeness of himself into the background of a busy group of people but would rarely go more than that. 

Almost all great artists since then have created self-portraits. To further illustrate these unique depictions, we have put together a collection of the most famous self-portraits by the world’s most well-known artists. 

  1. ALBRECHT DÜRER

Called the “Self-Portrait at 28”, this portrait by Albrecht Durer on an oil panel now belongs to the Alte Pinakothek Museum in Munich,  Germany. 

Albrecht Dürer was a German printmaker known for his highly detailed woodcuts and engravings. He is also known to have created important self-portraits throughout his life.

  The self-portrait at 28 is significant because Dürer portrays himself similar to the depictions for Christ. To many people, this may indicate that his talents are God-given.

  1. CLAUDE MONET

Self-Portrait by Claude Monet

Painted in 1886, this self-portrait by Claude Monet features the artist’s signature beard and beret.. 

This self-portrait exhibits the unique balance between dark and light, the use of unpainted canvas as well as Monet’s use of blurred brushstrokes. 

  1. EDVARD MUNCH

Self-Portrait by Edvard Munch

The self -portrait  with Skeleton Arm by Norwegian painter who doubled as a printmaker, Edward Munch in 1895, depicts the dark and dreary expression that the artistry is known for. 

Although it has been reprinted several times, this painting was originally rendered in lithographic chalk and ink. However,  in later reproductions,  Munch opted to black paint both his signature and the skeletal arm. 

It’s important to note that the original part of this piece can be found in numerous collections across many museums. 

  1. MARCEL DUCHAMP

This self-portrait by Marcel Duchamp was carefully rendered and composed of torn paper pasted on velvet-covered paperboard.  Marcel Duchamp is known for his avant-garde approach to painting and this piece was no exception.  

A very interesting part of this painting is its signature text. It is easy to assume that the text written against the white backdrop is the artist’s signature but it rather reads, “Marcel déchiravit ” which means, “Marcel tore this quickly”. 

  1. CINDY SHERMAN

Cindy Sherman is well-known as the master of disguise. When it comes to her self portrait, she is well celebrated for her unique approach to creating. In her work,  she assumes different characters. 

From example, in Untitled #96, which is a photograph from her series of Centerfold, she is depicted dressed as a teenage girl. 

Becoming one for the world’s most expensive photograph ever sold, a print of this piece was purchased at an auction for a record $3.89 million  in 2011. 

  1. GERHARD RICHTER

Known for his “overpainted ” photographs  and abstract works, the portfolio of Gerhard Richter is well known for its wide range of styles. 

This German painter also produces unique portraits that appear to be blurred photos even though they are painted.  The self-portrait Selbstportrait produced in 1996 is a typical example of this genre.  

This self-portrait depicts the artist in a state as he looks toward the ground. 

  1. RAPHAEL

Famous Self-Portraits Art History Raphael Famous Self Portraits

Raphael, “The School of Athens,” fresco, 1509-1511 

The School of Athens, a famous fresco, is a depiction of every great ancient Greek philosopher. This work was put together by Raphael,  a popular Italian Renaissance.

This painting shows a collection of figures and Raphael also included himself in the lower-left hand corner of the large-scale composition. He stands next to Ptolemy and can be seen staring straight at the viewer.  

  1. LEONARDO DA VINCI

Self-Portrait by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo was born in 1452 and circa which he created in 1512 is believed to be a rare self-portrait of this  great artist. The painting, which depicted a man in Red Chalk  although is one of Vinci‘s unique pieces,  is believed to have been completed on paper when he was nearly 60 years old. 

  1. PAUL GAUGUIN

Self-Portrait by Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin is known as a Post-Impressionist painter who is unique for his colorful palette and the self -portrait with Halo and Snake is not an exception.  

Although Gauguin produced over 40 self-portraits, this piece which he produced in 1886 remains his well-known self portrait and this is because of its underlying religious themes and avant-garde composition. 

This work can be found in the  National Gallery of ART in Washington, D.C

  1. VINCENT VAN GOGH

Famous Self-Portraits Art History Vincent van Gogh Famous Self Portraits

It’s important to know that although Vincent Van Gogh created a collection for self portraits which featured many iconic works, his Self-Portrait  with Bandaged Ear, is his most famous piece in that regard. 

Vincent Van Gogh painted this masterpiece in 1889 shortly after the infamous incident where he cut off his own ear. Bandaged Ear completely depicts that incidence. 

  1. NORMAN ROCKWELL

Norman Rockwell was an American  illustrator and artist and his Self-Portrait is known as one of his amazing works. Known for his delightful collection of Saturday Evening Post covers, Norman eventually joined the magazine and after 44 years with them, the magazine released the Saturday Evening Post which ran a biological piece on the artist. 

Rockwell was asked to work on the issue’s cover and as a result,  he depicted himself and created this amazing and comical Triple Self-Portrait. 

It’s important to note that the original oil painting of this artwork can be found in the Norman Rockwell like Museum in Massachusetts. 

  1. JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist known for his unique style of skillfully pairing a street art style with Neo-Expressionist know-how to create a socially-conscious art.  

In this self-portrait, this artist combined naive, figurative representations with complete abstraction and employs crayon and acrylic paint to complete the work. 

13. LOUISE BOURGEOIS

This self-portrait and uniquely feline-themed currently resides in a private collection. 

Mostly recognized as a sculptor and installation artist, French-American artist Louise Bourgeois also produced paintings in addition to her 3-dimensional creations.  

Although she isn’t associated with any particular artistic movement, many of her masterpieces like this self-portrait (2007) suggest surrealist influences  as she portrays herself as a cat. 

Conclusion

The artists and their unique works on this list encapsulate some of the most famous and iconic self portraits of all time. 

It’s important to note that artists would often go on to create more than one self-portrait throughout their career which means there are several significant artworks which can come to mind when discussing their work. 

Kwabena Okyire Appianing