- Andy Warhol
- acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
Estate of the Artist
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York
Stellan Holm Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in May 2001
Dramatic and painfully human, Self-Portrait is from Andy Warhol's final rendition of his dearest subject: his own visage. Painted in 1986, months before his sudden death in a hospital, it is the culmination of a long dialogue with mortality—a real life memento mori. Unlike the 1966-1967 Self-Portrait series, this work is a most compelling frontal self-portrait and conveys a psychological state previously unrealized in the flashy aesthetic and suggested evasion implied by Warhol's three-quarter gaze of the mid-1960s. An uncanny vision of self-reflection, the picture recreates the artist's aging features with the unforgiving and detached accuracy that have become synonymous with Warholian execution. The result is a more ghostly and contemplative Warhol—a far cry from the glittering persona he had fabricated for public consumption in the 1960s.
Self-portraiture lends itself to multiple layers of meaning that can be simultaneously candid and manipulative. This is particularly apparent in Self-Portrait where the emphasis on the wig's artifice, the most theatrical component in the composition, is as fundamental as the genuineness of the artist's features. As equal contributors to the compositional effect, they each occupy precisely the same pictorial space. The result is a perfectly balanced composition devised to appear purely spontaneous; a mesmerizing frontal view of the artist, an eerie pause, a moment in time that captures impending mortality.