Malczewski's self portraits establish an autonomous and extensive trend in his art. Painted in a realistic convention, Malczewski's self-portraits depict his own image surrounded by the characters from his compositions - Eloe; Ellenai; Muses; Medusas; fauns; chimeras; girls wearing folk clothes - in an illusive, almost touchable manner. These works develop an autotelic motif and rise the questions of art, art creation and power of the artistic vision (Autoportret z Muzą / Self-portrait with Muse, 1906; Moje modele / My Models, tryptyk/triptych, 1909; Autoportret z Tobiaszem i Parkami / Self-portrait with Tobias and the Moires, 1912; Pożegnanie z pracownią / Farewell to Studio, 1913). Music, the most abstract of all arts, becomes a metaphor for a process of art creation. It is depicted in a moment of playing the violin or peasant's fiddle, or pulling strings of a musical instrument (Mój koncert / My Concert, tryptyk/triptych, 1905). The autoironic tone resonates through the self portraits, which confirm the artist's inability to liberate from the sense of a patriotic duty (Na jednej strunie / On One String, 1908), and through paintings commenting metaphorically on moral choices and sensual fascinations in the artist's life (Przebrzmiały ton / A Played Out Tune, 1909).
Among about a hundred of self portraits painted by Malczewski, there is a separate group of compositions in which a figure of a model, depicted in a Verismo style, occupies a significant part of the forefront, creating an illusion of almost walking out of the frames and imposing its physical presence upon the viewer. This usually frozen and motionless figure of full plasticity and clear moulding, is accompanied by an allegorical and metaphorical staffage in the background: imagined or real figures embodying moral dilemmas, existential questions, or the world of artistic vision of the portrayed person. These figures are moved by emotions; they gesticulate dynamically; they play their mysterious roles as if on a theatre's stage (Portret Adama Asnyka z Muzą / Portrait of Adam Asnyk with Muse, 1895-1897; Dzieje piosenki - Portret Adama Asnyka / History of a Song - Portrait of Adam Asnyk, 1899; Portret Feliksa Jasieńskiego / Portrait of Feliks Jasieński, 1903; Portret Edwarda Raczyńskiego / Portrait of Edward Raczyński, 1903). The background narration discloses more about the model's personality, profession and vocation than the model's image which is only a mimetic depiction of physicality (Hamlet polski - Portret Aleksandra Wielopolskiego / Polish Hamlet - Portrait of Aleksander Wielopolski, 1903; Portret Wacława Karczewskiego / Portrait of Wacław Karczewski, 1906; Portret Erazma Barącza / Portrait of Erazm Barącz, 1907). It is in this duality of visual space that the Symbolists' understanding of the world as dual in nature - spiritual and material - becomes apparent.