EU shipping is temporarily suspended

The Self-Portrait

A Cultural History

James Hall


A many-faceted history of self-portraiture, telling the history of the artworks that offer the deepest insights into an artist’s personal, psychological and creative world

Also available as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon


In this broad cultural survey of self-portraiture, art historian and critic James Hall brilliantly maps the history of the genre, from the earliest myths of Narcissus and the Christian tradition of ‘bearing witness’ to the prolific self-image-making of today’s contemporary artists. His vivid account shows how artists’ depictions of themselves have been part of a continuing tradition that reaches back for centuries. Along the way he reveals the importance of the medieval ‘mirror craze’; the explosion of the genre during the Renaissance; the confessional self-portraits of Titian and Michelangelo; the role of biography for serial self-portraitists such as Courbet and van Gogh; themes of sex and genius in works by Munch, Bonnard and Modersohn-Becker; and the latest developments of the genre in the era of globalization

The full range of self-portraits is covered here, from comic and caricature self-portraits to ‘invented’ or imaginary ones, as well as key collections of self-portraiture such as that of the Medici in Florence. Throughout, Hall asks why – and when – artists have chosen to make self-portraits, and looks deeply into the worlds and mindsets of the artists who have created them. Comprehensive and beautifully illustrated, the book features the work of a wide range of artists including Alberti, Caravaggio, Courbet, Dürer, Emin, Gauguin, Giotto, Goya, Kahlo, Koons, Magritte, Mantegna, Picasso, Raphael, Rembrandt and Warhol. Offering a rich and lively history, The Self-Portrait is an essential read for all those interested in this most enduringly popular and humane of art forms.

Read More


'There is never a dull passage in this book ... Hall manages to retain the intellectual high ground while writing with verve and enthusiasm '
Frances Spalding, Guardian

'Wide-ranging, richly researched and evocatively illustrated … It is as varied, revelatory and idiosyncratic as the genre which it takes as its subject'
The Times

'Fascinating, erudite and beautifully produced'
Sunday Times

'Enthralling … Scattering insights on all sides, Hall’s narrative advances through the centuries with masterly vigour'

Read More

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps

Size: 22.9 x 15.2 cm

Extent: 288 pp

Illustrations: 120

Publication date: 24 August 2015

ISBN: 9780500292112

Contents List

Introduction • Prelude: Self-Portraiture in Antiquity • 1. Medieval Origins • 2. A Craze for Mirrors • 3. The Artist in Society • 4. The Renaissance Artist as Hero • 5. Mock- Heroic Self-Portraits • 6. The Artist’s Studio • 7. At the Crossroads • 8. Coming Home: Into the Nineteenth Century • 9. Sex and Genius • 10. Beyond the Face: Modern and Contemporary Self-Portraits

About the Author

James Hall is Research Professor at the University of Southampton. An art critic, historian and lecturer, James is noted for his originality, versatility and lucidity. He has published many ground-breaking books and journal essays, including on Michelangelo, left-right symbolism and many aspects of sculpture. The award-winning The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History (Thames & Hudson, 2014) immediately established itself as the standard work in its field and has been translated into five languages.