Saturday, March 15, 2014

Compelling Faces in Art - Jan Toorop, self-portrait.

The self-portrait has an enduring appeal, for giving us an insight into how the artist perceives him or herself, or how he wishes to be perceived by viewers. Jan Toorop gives us this self-portrait in 1915. A Dutch-Indonesian painter, Toorop worked in various styles, including Art Nouveau, and Pointilism. He also developed his own unique Symbolist style, with dynamic, unpredictable lines based on Javanese motifs, highly stylized willowy figures, and curvilinear designs. 

At first glance, one could conclude that Toorop is depicting himself as a master of his craft, having authority over the viewer; expressed through his wild, staring eyes, and his dominance over the picture space. It is as if he wants to shock us. It is a provocative piece. 

What I find interesting here is that there is little sense of introversion, we are not being presented with an insight into his mind. Rather we are presented with a manifesto. Or is he actually imbuing us with a sense of gravitas and mystery? 

Perhaps the manifesto really is: Exploration of your identity. Your autonomy, unrestricted from outside constraints, comes with the artistic bravura of self-investigation. And only then will a naked quality of self-knowledge emerge.

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