Corinth’s Self-Portrait with a Model (1903)

Sometimes artists appear whose depth of understanding seems to match that of the great masters but whose actual compositions are somewhat less subtle and are thus easier to understand. Lovis Corinth is one of those artists. Once you learn how he constructs his images, you can bring your new-found knowledge to the study of more difficult masters. In the painting we will now discuss Corinth has turned the painting process inside out to demonstrate that any painted model represents the artist while an artist in a painting is likewise the model.

Note how the female nude in this self-portrait faces the canvas as the artist himself would have done when painting it. Her hand, parallel to the picture surface, seems to touch it, a gesture in art that I often suggest means "paint". It is not that unusual a link given that, in Dutch at least, a brushstroke is touche. Even in English we sometimes refer to an artist's hand when we mean style or facture.

Corinth clearly identifies with this model as she "paints" a picture of him. Her hand flat on the "canvas", touching it like his once did, represents the artist's own hand painting it. The hand on the surface and the figure seen from the back are both commonly used in poetic painting to indicate the artist at work. In this case not only does the artist-as-a-model paint the painter but the two together indicate the presumed androgyny of Corinth's mind. The frame at the bottom further suggests that we are looking at a "painting".

Captions for image(s) above:

Corinth, Self-Portrait with a Model (1903)

Click image to enlarge.

First published online October 2nd, 2010; revised August 8th 2012

More Works by Corinth


Original Publication Date on EPPH: 08 Aug 2012. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.