Musée d'Orsay: Self-portraits from the Musée d'Orsay

Self-portraits from the Musée d'Orsay

Vincent Van GoghPortrait of the artist© RMN-Grand-Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Gérard Blot
As part of its policy to present its collections throughout the country, the Musée d'Orsay is teaming up with the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper to explore its collections based on the theme of self-portraits. This exceptional exhibition aims to take a fresh look at famous paintings and rediscover those works that are less-often exhibited.

An exercise in introspection since the Renaissance, self-portraits bring into play the artist's vision of themselves against the backdrop of the artistic creation of their era. Beyond the reflection of their own image, the painter questions their art and its place in society. In the 19th century - a period of aesthetic upheaval and the rejection of academism - self-portraits sometimes served as a manifesto of a style of painting, a positioning with regard to a certain tradition. Some artists like Courbet emphasised the image of the artist in his studio and thus demanded recognition for their work. Others, like Carpeaux, Redon, Gauguin and Cézanne subtly combined a pictorial quest with psychological observation. From staging and even cross-dressing sometimes, ensues a series of real introspections, the depth of which culminated in Van Gogh's approach which portrays a true autobiographical narrative through successive representations of himself.

Thanks to an educational stance that leaves plenty of place for surprise and fun, this exhibition reveals the diversity of the trends that question or renew the tradition of painting in the 19th century, creating the context for the emergence of the modern painting of the early 20th century in a series of successive avant-garde works.


Xavier Rey, heritage curator, director of collections, Musée d'Orsay
Charles Villeneuve de Janti, heritage curator, director, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy
Guillaume Ambroise, chief heritage curator, director, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper
The exhibition also presented in:
Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts from 29 May to 31 August 2015
Quimper, Musée des Beaux-Arts, from 17 June to 2 October 2016

4 March - 5 June 2016

Clermont-Ferrand, musée des Beaux-Arts Roger Quilliot

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