Artwork Title: Self Portrait

Self Portrait, 1839

Mary Ellen Best

Best's explicit identification as an artist is also evident in a striking 1839 self portrait in which she depicts herself seated in a nondescript chair with the background left undefined—an effective device that focuses the viewer's attention on her exquisitely rendered formal attire and elaborate hairstyle. She is in the act of painting a framed portrait that rests on her knee. Although her attire is seemingly incongruous with her activity, to depict oneself in formal attire while working was a typical way for artists, both male and female, to dissociate painting, considered a noble intellectual pursuit, from craft or manual labor. One can see this in self portraits by more conventionally successful female artists, for example the Swiss painter and etcher Angelica Kauffman, one of the founding members of the Royal Academy, and... []
Uploaded on Mar 18, 2018 by Suzan Hamer

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