10 Most Famous Self Portraits by Renowned Painters

Although artists have been making self-portraits since a long time, dating to ancient Egypt, self-portraiture became an integral part of an artists’ repertoire only after the advent of the 15th century. Almost all great artists since then have created self-portraits with some even specializing in the genre. Here are the 10 most famous self-portraits.

#10 Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat

Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat (1782)
Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat (1782) – Elisabeth Louise Vigee Lebrun
Location:The National Gallery, London, U.K.
Artist:Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun

Perhaps the greatest female painter of the 18th Century, Madame Lebrun painted many portraits of the royals, especially of the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. She pioneered a new style of portraying women in a fashionable, stylish and charming manner; and this famous self-portrait bears a testimony to that.

#9 Self-Portrait with a Sunflower

Self-Portrait with a Sunflower (1641)
Self-Portrait with a Sunflower (1633) – Anthony van Dyck
Location:Eaton Hall, Cheshire, England, U.K.
Artist:Anthony van Dyck

Anthony van Dyck is considered a master of portrait painting and this is his most famous self-portrait. The portrait has been a subject of much study and debate; especially the significance of the gold chain, which was probably given to the painter when he was knighted; and the presence of the sunflower. It was hugely popular during the Civil War with people deciphering that the gold chain signifies the dependence of the painter in all things on the King.

#8 The Desperate Man (Self-Portrait)

The Desperate Man (1845)
The Desperate Man (Self-Portrait) (1845) – Gustave Courbet
Location:Private Collection
Artist:Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet is known for challenging conventions and revolutionizing the art of painting. He is considered one the most creative self-portraitist and The Desperate Man showcases why he is so considered. Courbet is known as a Realist painter but this famous work is from the Romantic period of his career.

#7 Self-Portrait Grimacing

Self-Portrait Grimacing (1910)
Self-Portrait Grimacing (1910) – Egon Schiele
Location:Albertina, Vienna, Austria
Artist:Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele was a master of Expressionism and his work is known for its intensity. Schiele created many self-portraits which are totally unsparing, his facial expression is either startled or contorted; and his body bend out of shape and abnormally thin. This famous work is one of his many controversial self-portraits which are known for their obscurity and uniqueness.

#6 Self-Portrait at 28

Self-Portrait at 28 (1500)
Self-Portrait at 28 (1500) – Albrecht Durer
Location:Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany
Artist:Albrecht Durer

Regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance, Albrecht Durer is perhaps the first great master of the self-portrait. This portrait was painted just before his twenty ninth birthday and is considered the most iconic of all his self-portraits. The painting bears unmistakable resemblance to earlier representations of Jesus Christ which has added to its fame. Over the years, art critics have debated over the implications of this. Some consider it self-idolatry, some say it symbolizes suffering and some say it implies that his artistic talents are God given.

#5 Self-Portrait, 1986

Self-Portrait, 1986
Self-Portrait, 1986 – Andy Warhol
Location:Various Museums
Artist:Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol is considered the greatest artist of the Pop Art movement. This famous work belongs to the last series of self-portraits which he painted in the year before his death. It is one of the five versions (green, blue, purple, yellow and here, red) of the set. The image of the time-worn artist with the remarkable fright-wig is one of the iconic images of the twentieth century.

#4 Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar

Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar (1659)
Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar (1659) – Rembrandt
Location:National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., U.S.

Considered by many as the best self-portrait ever created, Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar is a work in which may be seen “the stresses and strains of a life compounded of creative triumphs and personal and financial reverses”. Rembrandt’s self-portraits are known for him not showing any mercy to himself and this painting, which was painted when he was 50 years old, showcases his ruthless and sincere depiction of himself.

#3 Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889)
Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) – Vincent van Gogh
Location:Courtauld Gallery, London, U.K.
Artist:Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh is famous for his self-portraits. He painted over 30 of them during his life. This one is famous not only for its brilliance but also for the story behind it. After an incident with another prominent painter of the time, Paul Gauguin, Van Gogh cut off part of his own left year with a razor. He then went to a brothel and told a prostitute named Rachel to ‘guard this object with your life’. This is one of the two self-portraits he painted after the incident. It is to be noted that it was his left ear that was bandaged; it appears right as Van Gogh has used a mirror to paint the portrait.

#2 Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk

Self Portrait - Leonardo da Vinci
Self Portrait in Red Chalk (1512) – Leonardo da Vinci
Location:Royal Library, Turin, Italy
Artist:Leonardo da Vinci

Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk is the only surviving self-portrait of the great Leonardo da Vinci. The portrait shows an old, wise looking man with long beard and hair staring at the viewer. Perhaps due to this it has become an iconic representation of Leonardo as a polymath or “Renaissance Man”; and hence has been reproduced innumerable times. It is to be noted that there are a few historians and scholars who don’t consider this painting as a self-portrait mainly because the figure looks much older than Leonardo was at the time (60yrs). However it is widely believed that Da Vinci purposely aged himself. There are several myths associated with the painting like it transfers great strength to those who observe it. It was secretly moved from Turin to Rome during World War II and some say that this was done to prevent Hitler from acquiring magic powers through the painting.

#1 Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940)
Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940) – Frida Kahlo
Location:Harry Ransom Center, Austin, U.S.
Artist:Frida Kahlo

When she was seventeen, Frida Kahlo was involved in a near fatal bus accident. Due to the grave injuries she suffered in the accident, she had to undergo 35 operations in her life, bear with relapses of extreme pain and could not have children. Another repercussion of the accident was that she left medicine and started her career as a painter. Frida Kahlo is famous for her self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds. Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird is one of her most well-known works.

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