#NationalSelfieDay 2019 – history’s 10 most eye-popping self-portraits
June 21st marks the 6th annual National Selfie Day, but our obsession with self-portraits dates back to centuries before Instagram and the Kardashians.
Whether they’re fuelled by narcissism or hold up a mirror to society’s concept of the self, our pick of history’s 10 most eye-popping self-portraits provides a whole new angle on saying ‘cheese’.
1. Da Vinci – Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk (1518)
The iconic sketch Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk is the subject of serious debate in art world, with many questioning if the person depicted in the painting is actually Da Vinci. The artist was 60 at the time, so some argue that the subject’s long white beard and deep wrinkles make him more withered than the artist would have appeared.
2. Parmigianino – Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1524)
This painting by Italian Renaissance artist Parmigianino is really cool because it depicts his image as seen through a convex mirror– he even painted it on rounded wood to reproduce the shape. One of the most striking aspects of this portrait is the elongated hand, distorted by the reflection.
3. Van Gogh – Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889)
Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear was produced by tortured artist Van Gogh shortly after he mutilated his ear. In the background, there’s an easel and a painting, placed to represent art within art and perhaps a symbol of Van Gogh’s determination to carry on with his work despite his wonky hearing hole.
4. Aldrin – Space Selfie (1966)
Long before the selfie phenomenon blew up, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin Jr., a pilot of the Gemini 12 spaceflight, snapped this space selfie, becoming the first person to do so. You can even see the Earth shining away in the background – it’s superb.
5. Picasso – Self-Portrait Facing Death (1972)
Self-Portrait Facing Death is the last well-known piece produced by Picasso, produced less than a year before his demise in 1973. One of the most prominent features of this crayon piece are the large eyes, which draw in the viewer to the subject. Here, Picasso abandons his trademark bright colours, resulting in a piece that’s all the more mesmerising for its darker hues.
6. Cindy Sherman – Untitled Film Still #21 (1978)
Sherman is known for her photo portraits and Untitled Film Still #21 comes from her Untitled Film Stills collection, in which she poses in the guise of various generic female film characters. In this piece, she depicts a woman in a vintage 1950’s outfit ready to take on the big city, captivated by something in the distance that remains a mystery to the viewer.
7. Monkey Selfie (2011)
When British photographer David Slater followed a troop of macaque monkeys around Indonesia, one of the monkeys, Naruto, grabbed his camera and took an iconic selfie that drove the internet wild. This wicked photo was even the subject of a fierce court case which thrashed out who owns the copyright for the photo – monkey or man?
8. Thorning-Schmidt – World Leaders Selfie (2013)
This selfie was taken by former Danish Prime Minster, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Thorning-Schmidt is in the middle, with fellow leaders David Cameron and Barack Obama both beaming at her side. It’s brilliant because it shows these powerful figures letting their hair down and behaving the same way ordinary people do.
9. Wiseman – Water Bubble Selfie (2014)
Many space selfies have complemented that of Edwin Aldrin Jr, but few are quite as epic as Wiseman’s. The clever astronaut used a floating water bubble as a fish-eye lens, creating one the most awesome selfie videos anyone in the galaxy has ever seen.
10. DeGeneres – Oscars Selfie (2014)
Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscars selfie was a viral phenomenon, with over 3.4 million retweets and 2.4 million likes. It’s fantastic because it shows A-List celebs like Bradley Cooper, Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence goofing around at one the most prestigious events on TV –instantly iconic!
Hopefully these 10 famous self-portraits have inspired you for #NationalSelfieDay – we can’t wait to see everyone’s efforts on social media!