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When an artist needs a model and he can't afford it or if he is wife or friends absolutely refused to endure any more of that monotonous task he's always had someone he could turn to free patient and quiet himself. The most famous portrayer was of course Rembrandt. He left an autobiography in painting which vanity was nothing. The search for truth was everything. Some of his self-portraits rank among his greatest works. And probably that's because artists have no need to flatter themselves. They can explore to the fullest the paths which which they have charted for themselves will be looking at some confrontations of the self lithograph woodcut by such 19th and 20th century artists as they called it and
painting for me is a very private affair not a vaudeville act. And I don't do many portraits these days but I remember in my student days I did some in the summers down on Cape Cod and for some reason people like to watch. So I thought it might make a light interlude between the serious work you're going to see if I if I tried a little self portrait study. These things look very rough in the beginning and often they look very rough when they're finished. But that's part of the adventure. Is it sort of an appalling
thing to be doing to be doing this under the eyes of these masters who are on the wall looking at me. But the maps. Be tolerant. Working on our own ground the way I am here is a real throwback I learned. I was trained in sort of an impressionist technique where you paint on the white canvas. You don't cover it with a brown tone and that gives you a freshness of color. Generally I was brought up to avoid Brown and use red blue and yellow and the primary colors so this is
this is something of a throwback what I'm doing now but of course the Impressionist rules about using red yellow and blue can become just as much of an academy as the 19th century so long could be. We have a self portrait to show you by a impressionist of the 19th century a very great one coming his sorrow. And this is an etching Sattell was unique among the impressionists who were almost drunk with color in spending so much effort in black and white graphic media flowed Monet for instance never made a print. Besides I was older than most of his colleagues and also poorer than most of them. He was just beginning to eke out a livelihood from his work at the time he did this when he was around
60. It's inevitable that we would call this Rembrandt death because Rembrandt was the first to cast his sitters in the dark this way and then unveil them as if they were being born again. A. I remember when I was in Japan years ago I did a portrait of the old man with a wonderful face. And I hadn't been in Japan very long and I didn't know much of the language. And he'd take a break every 20 minutes or so and come over and look see what I was doing and the wood would be quiet for a minute and then he'd say not a whole dog not a holdall. And then I go back and work some more and have rest again and then it say. I don't hold on
hold on. So I was getting nervous. After a while I thought I was making is hoto to naru or something like that it turns out all it meant was oh that's how you do it or I see something like that. I was talking about artists having no need to flatter themselves I'm already beginning to make myself look like Dr. Kildare or something here. This is in case anyone I know there are things on television about how to work to paint brush painting or something like that and this is not a how to do it less and that's just what I'm really not sure what it is I think I'm just doing it for fun.
It's very it's a very funny experience when you haven't been doing something like a portrait for years. I've been involved in other things in my work and go back to it. You're sort of the first thing you think I was the old formulas you learned you know and this is what I'm doing now playing sort of a formula. There's no real involvement here at that at this point and I don't know if I worked in this painting for a few weeks I might get involved but I thought it might be fun to see some of the problems that you have to struggle with. Those of you who do paint know what I'm doing wrong.
They don't write and tell me. And still is a little bit. I think it's I see myself as a combination of Flash Gordon and killed there. I think that's what. One important artist used to complain to his wife after she had sat 70 or 80 times for a painting that she she didn't sit still like an apple. So it's inevitable that Paul would would turn to his own image for studies of a new kind of pictorial form. This is a lithograph we see how he uses shadow
not descriptively but only when he needs it as part of the structure. The current in the canvas of scene together as a dock master he's aware of the the shape relationship with his white beard and his white shirt. These are some words of Paul says. Shall I ever reach the goal so eagerly sought and so long pursue. I hope so. But as long as it has not been attained a vague feeling of discomfort resists which will not disappear until I shall have gained the harbor. That is until I shall have accomplished something more promising than what has gone before thereby verifying my theories which in themselves are easy to put forth. The only thing that is really difficult is to prove what one believes. So I am going on with my researches I am continually making observations from nature and I feel that I am I making some slight progress. Elsewhere essays on
Observe that in anon an apple a bowl ahead there is a culminating point and this point is always in spite of the tremendous effect of light and shade and colorful sensations. The closest to our eye the edges of the objects recedes to a center. Now all right. He also said. Don't be an art critic but paint therein lies salvation. I. What essentially I am doing is obviously using the half tone which was already on the canvas using that tone as the middle and placing the lights and darks into it. It is time to really take a hard look at the drawing which is often in different places and different ways to do that of course of the traditional
imaginary plumb line you can see where the where the corner of the eye is. You drop a line from that and where did that come relation to the end of the nose. And where does that come in relation in the meanwhile shot I might be able to see. After a certain point after you got to. Things place generally the accepted practice was to go back and finish each part. In. Detail with one man's idea of finish is another man's idea of killing a painting. The. Portrait Painters fall into different
categories and we'll talk about them. I'd like you to to look at a lithograph by a man who. It was not a portrait painter but a painter a very religious kind of painter an artist who made a very majestic use of strong contrasts of light and dark and influenced by stained glass windows and of course I mean Frenchman George rule. This again is a lithograph printed from a drawing made directly on limestone. There is an ambiguity here that's almost more of a cubist concern than an expressionist. We see how the light makes a profile on a three quarter view. It puts a harsh light on the face which washes out any modeling in the white. He sees the eye as a cave in the midst of a bright desert and we lookin for signs of life. It's so drawn in model that it implies all the structure he has left out
text or that of the stone which is drawn together with this sculptural modeling. This gives it the mystery of an ancient time worn sculpture. I said I am a believer in a conformist. Anyone can we vote. It is more difficult silently to obey our own interior prompting and to spend our lives finding sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperaments and our gifts. If we have any I do not say neither God nor Master. Only in the end to substitute myself for the God I have excommunicated. That's one of the standard techniques I use while painting and is not to be recommended. When I get into a difficult spot and something I shift my attention to something else or it's
easier or it seems easier. For I get up courage enough to go back in and battle out. What eyes looked like it. This is painting under artificial light. The artist used to make a I think more of a to do about. What kind of light they have than they do now. I remember complaining to a painting teacher one time with the light of change and therefore I couldn't properly
complete the masterpiece I was working on. And he pointed out that the subject was the same man and I know what the like was. I didn't know the answer for that. One one thing that we like to do is put in highlights. For some reason most of us beginners are attracted to placing high lights because they give in and the illusion of life somehow they give the thing that will sparkle.
Then you go and look at what if you like of Alaska then how did you see they were more interested in other things like the direction of the planes of the face being picked up by the brushwork of course this is. Several schools of thought on that too. Certainly the the portrait is one that invites artists to be most subjective and most dramatic and brushwork for some reason that's out of drawing I see. It's almost bad manners for an artist in this century to show as though he took any delight in the world in his
portrait. Quite gloomy we brutalize Marc Chagall seems to say life can be beautiful. It all depends on the proper slant. It's very characteristic that he throws us off balance this way in his paintings forms float and fly up by a rich color sense and by his reverence for the reality of the dream. Here in this etching even the eyes seem to float in a sea of little stroke like the mask of a form. It's almost a brutal change from that lyrical romantic work to the harshness of the self-portrait by Eric Cole. The Germans of course don't have a corner on the Expressionist element in Iraq but theirs had a special character which we see in this woodcut expressionism has been defined as a reality that the artist finds by observing his own subjective reaction
and for which he then fashions an adequate and equivalent formal means to evoke a similar response in the viewer. Here we see how the gougers of the woodcutters chisel are left to show at once the character of the medium. The planes of the face and the leverages of the artist's life. If I were tackling this compelling subject in my own studio I'd have. Scraped it down and started all over again three times already probably. I muddle through. Tolerance of.
It's as I mean I know that this is all a method to tell you different things. And one of them is to begin with finishing things like you looking around and picking up things that disturb me I don't know how valuable a technique that is. But I do I don't. Where I come from this next 40 We're going to show you looks more like an art dealer than an artist. But the man under that Derby is Max Beck the famous German expressionist. He has used the etching needle to mark out the planes of the face. He looks at
himself with the same unblinking challenge that he hurled at the Nazis in his powerful allegories of tyranny and oppression. He said one of my problems is to find the ego which has only one form and is immortal to find it in animals and man in the heaven and in The Help which together form the world in which we live. What I want to show in my work is the idea which hides itself behind so-called reality. I am seeking for the Bridge which leads from the visible to the invisible. I. You see I really don't believe in what I'm doing right now because I'm desperately trying to pick up that light.
And. What does that light that accidental like which happens to be on me I. Have to do. Anything but accident it makes. Perhaps the value of doing something like this that we went through while. Doing this. There is a discipline involved but involves for me a great wrenching vision because I really don't believe that. This revealed anything. That. Might reveal something negative but I don't think it reveals this way of painting can tell us much.
At this stage in history it's. When we have photography studios who will give you a portrait in Rembrandt lighting in the sense. That they're. Playing with here but. It's Which is of course a travesty of Rembrandt to reduce it to a formula. All in all it's. Much too flattering. But. Getting my children with what your father looked like.
When he was 21. I think my nose is longer than that. Too bad this isn't one of those shows where you could telephone and then you could tell me where the drawing is wrong. One of the most brilliant colorist among the Expressionists is represented here by a self-portrait in black and white and it's by Emil nolde. It looks like a tragic Greek mess. Normal day was actually more attracted to the arts of Africa in the Orient. He was a mystic a visionary. You see how everything simplified here the year ahead is really shaped the shadow of the eye is the shadow of
the room. Yes a great deal of us yes has to read these two little white spots of the lower lip and always use the texture in the light almost suggest that the face has been beaten physically. And if it looks lonely it's not surprising considering what a meal no they believe the great artist should be natural and cultivated godlike and be a child and a giant naive and sophisticated this playing feeling and understanding passionate and attack. Oh.
It's not for gallantry that we've left to the final places on a cake they call that. It's simply that you've done some of the most moving and profound self-portraits of our time. You know her lithographs an etching of the oppressed and hungry the last of the bird in Germany during the first half of the century. In a profile the tendency is to read up and down the contour and see how she gives it a sculptural balance and solidity by emphasizing all the horizontal shadows something of her heroic resistance to personal and general tragedy comes through in this portrait and in these words in a letter to her son. I want to live and work while with a light laugh. That is why I seek escape from the unbearable pressure. No perhaps escape is not the right word. I do not want to shut my eyes but to create a counter poise to the horror of
Museum Open House
The Artist and the Mirror
Episode Number
Museum Open House: The Artist and the Mirror
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Episode Description
Program hosted by Russell Connor of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Each half hour program was devoted to a period of artists and showed works of art with Connor giving the background on the works.
Fine Arts
Connor, Russell; self-portrait; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Host2: Connor, Russell
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Publisher: Presented by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the WGBH Educational Foundation
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Identifier: 01bee82aef60eff3007d1213b82d2d3402d39171 (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
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Chicago: “Museum Open House; The Artist and the Mirror; 11; Museum Open House: The Artist and the Mirror,” 1964-05-11, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 30, 2023,
MLA: “Museum Open House; The Artist and the Mirror; 11; Museum Open House: The Artist and the Mirror.” 1964-05-11. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 30, 2023. <>.
APA: Museum Open House; The Artist and the Mirror; 11; Museum Open House: The Artist and the Mirror. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from