Death and the Maiden. From Schubert to Schiele

“I feel myself the most unhappy and wretched man in the world,” confided Austrian composer Franz Schubert to his friend, artist Leopold Kupelwieser, in a letter dated March 31, 1824, as he was struggling with poor health, financial woes and lack of recognition. “Think of a man whose health can never be restored, and who…

Paula Modersohn-Becker: When Life Imitates Art

The name Paula Modersohn-Becker may not say much to you outside of Germany, but at 30 years old she was the first woman to paint herself in the nude, in Self-Portrait at Sixth Wedding Anniversary. Here, one quarter turned with her face flushed, she exposes two small, perky breasts crowned by an amber necklace, one…

The Journey Within: František Kupka’s Self-Portraits

One of the saddest things I’ve learned in recent weeks was that as we grow older a yellow pigment accumulates on our retinas and changes the way we see the world. Colors fade, dimness increases, the blue sky loses its crispness. We’re stuck in a 1960’s Polaroid. And even though there are countless indignities to…

Paul Gauguin – Self-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard (1888)

Three friends. Three beards. Three paintings. In August 1888, a sensitive, anxious, yet quite ambitious 20-year-old man set out to walk by foot the more than 500 km distance between Paris and Pont-Aven, in order to paint with French artist Paul Gauguin. His beautiful younger sister, 17-year-old Madeleine, accompanied him. His name was Émile Bernard…

Giorgio de Chirico – Self-portrait (1922)

Giorgio de Chirico had always been a classicism enthusiast. Even during the early stages of his career, the artist had resorted to iconography reminiscent of Ancient Greece and Rome. It may come as no surprise then, that since he was an Italian born in Greece, de Chirico was not shy to take pride in his…

Tsuguharu Foujita – Self-Portrait (1936)

As a Japanese artist arriving in Paris in 1913, Tsuguharu Foujita quickly befriended and got acquainted with all the great painters, including Modigliani and Picasso, as well with socialites and celebrities like Josephine Baker. The Japanese embodied the exoticism that Europeans were longing for and he was quick to profit from it. With his bowl…