The Evolution of the #Selfie
The modern selfie is in essence a continuation of the self-portraits that artists have been creating for hundreds of years. From Rembrandt to Rolf Stoll and his beloved dogs, artists love to show how they view themselves to the rest of the world. So sit back and pretend you’re scrolling through your Instagram posts; a good group of selfies are coming your way.
Self-Portrait in Velvet Cap with Plume, 1638. Rembrandt van Rjin (Dutch, 1606-1669). Etching with engraving; 11.2 x 10.4 cm. Gift of Robert Hays Gries.
Rembrandt van Rijn is known for his many self-portraits. Incredibly telling and self-reflective, they show over time the changes in the artist both physically and mentally. Much as we take a selfie when we are happy and sometimes sad, the self-portrait above depicts Rembrandt when he was at the top of society, due to his marriage to the wealthy Saskia van Uylenburgh five years earlier.
Self-Portrait,c. 1812. Joseph Paelinck (Belgian, 1781-1839). Oil on canvas; 89 x 69.3 cm. Gift of Elisabeth Ireland and Robert Livingston Ireland Jr., in memory of their mother, Mrs. Perry W. Harvey.
Looking quite debonair, Joseph Paelinck depicts himself at the height of fashion in a black suit, trendy box-coat, gloves, and cravat. This self-portrait provided a way for the artist to show his skill with texture and depiction of light, but really could also be a self-promotion of his great style sense, something we all are guilty of from time to time.
Pater Familias (Self-Portrait),c. 1948. Rolf Stoll (American, 1892-1978). Oil on Masonite; 76.3 x 60.7 cm. Gift of Mrs. Rolf Stoll.
A man and his dogs. What better way to celebrate the love for your pets than to have a self-portrait with them? Obviously, these two adorable dogs are stealing the show, with the darling way that they drape themselves over Stoll’s arm. The artist better watch out, they might be asking for their own selfies soon!
Self-Portrait, 1950. Antonio Frasconi (American, 1919-2013). Woodcut. Gift of The Print Club of Cleveland in memory of William J. Eastman. ©VAGA, New York, NY.
Artists get bored just like the rest of us. Frasconi’s woodcut depicts a stance that should be familiar to all of us and most likely the reason that any of us take a selfie, when we have nothing better to do. Here Frasconi shows that he was just ahead of his time.
The idea of the selfie has been around much longer than we think, and one can just imagine what Rembrandt or Stoll’s selfies would have been like if they had their own Instagram or Twitter accounts. They’d be trending for sure!
Tori Laser is a junior at John Carroll University studying art history with a focus on communications. She is interning this summer in the Communications and Marketing Department at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
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