Wednesday 10 September 2008

Painters painting themselves

On the Today Programme
An art historian says he has found that painters who made their money specialising in portraits of famous people chose to redress the balance of power by reproducing their own facial characteristics within those of their powerful sitters. The artist Simon Abrahams explains why he calls the practice 'face fusion', and says it is evident as early as the 1600s in the work of Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver.
That doesn't surprise me at all. Everything we do, even the smallest bit of writing or drawing, contains our personality. The speaker said that art historians have made the mistake of thinking that a painting is like a photograph, when really it is like a mirror reflecting the artist's mind. I can't really believe many art historians have made that mistake, surely it has always been known that a painting is packed full of the artist. Mind you, I'm not convinced a photograph is 'just a photograph' either! The photogapher has always made choices which will be reflected in the image. I wonder, if we were to take some of our holiday snaps out of the draw at random, would someone who knows us be able to tell which were taken by me and which by my wife?

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