Search results

Start typing

Portrait of the Artist
This exhibition is in the past. View our current exhibitions.

Explore the exhibition

Recto: A self-portrait in old age. Verso: A man and a woman embracing: Self-portrait of Rubens in old age©

Images of artists increasingly appear from the fifteenth century onwards, a phenomenon linked to a change in how artists were perceived in society during the Renaissance. With the rediscovery of classical texts and a renewed interest in humanism came an increasing emphasis on individual achievement and posthumous fame. Artists saw self-portraiture as a way to demonstrate their accomplishments and assert their status as intellectuals rather than anonymous artisans. Simultaneously, a market developed for people wanting to own images of those deemed to be exceptional and inspirational by virtue of their artistic talent.

The first objects in this exhibition are introspective. They were not intended to be seen by a wide audience and often give the strong impression of an artist scrutinising their appearance, then recording it with unflinching honesty. Such private images were sometimes produced by young artists practising their craft, while others served as a form of psychological exploration. Some artists employed self-portraiture to experiment with a new technique, pose or expression, using themselves as the cheapest and most readily available model. Other private images were made so that an artist's family or friends might remember them during a period of absence or after their death.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.