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The self-portrait as self-promotion

Of the no less than 27 self-portraits Sir Joshua Reynolds painted during his lifetime, this was his penultimate, produced c.1788 when he was about 65. It was a popular work and was frequently copied. This original version was presented to George IV, a gre

Self-portrait ©

Any artist who earns a living through their art needs to find patrons or customers. From the Renaissance onwards, most of those customers have been conscious of buying not just the work of art as an object in itself, but also something of the 'aura' of the artist who created it. Artists have therefore promoted themselves as well as their works, and the self-portrait has been an important tool in this marketing campaign – whether painted for a patron or for display, or printed for mass circulation.

Artists have portrayed themselves as honest craftsmen, as inspired geniuses, as sophisticated courtiers, as pillars of society and as heirs to a long tradition. Almost every self-portrait in this exhibition is a carefully honed image, intended to appeal to a specific audience.

After Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)

John Smith

After William Hogarth (1697-1764)

A self-portrait with a pug

Thomas Frye (1711/12-62)

A self-portrait

Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92)


Samuel William Reynolds (1773-1835)

A self-portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds

Kirkley, Caroline (fl.1795-97)

A self-portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds

Valentine Green (1739-1813)

A self-portrait of Maria Cosway

Isaac Oliver (c. 1565-1617)

A Self-Portrait

Peter Oliver (1589-1647)

A Self-Portrait

Samuel Cooper (1609-72)

A Self-Portrait

Mary Knowles (1733-1807)

Needlework picture

Thomas Major: The Golden Head, in Chandos Street the upper end of St Martins Lane, London

Thomas Major, engraver

After Fedor Iwanowitsch (1765-1832)

A self-portrait

William Strang (1859-1921)

A self-portrait

Rayner, (Hewitt) Henry (1902-1957)

A self-portrait

Gabriel Metsu (Leiden 1629-Amsterdam 1667)

A Self-Portrait