Manchester Art Gallery will present the exhibition Artists in the Frame: Self-portraits by Van Dyck and Others from 21 May – 31 August. The show explores why and how artists choose to represent themselves and brings together 20 works by historic and contemporary artists. Spanning over 300 years of portraiture, the exhibition will feature photographs, paintings, digital and graphic works. This is a unique opportunity to see self-portraits from the gallery’s collection alongside loans from the National Portrait Gallery and contemporary artists.
Sir Anthony van Dyck’s renowned Self-portrait, the highlight of this exhibition, was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 2014 through a major public appeal with the Art Fund, and with thanks to a major grant of £6.3m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the support of other major individual and trust supporters, and nearly 10,000 members of the public. Visitors can see Self-portrait, c. 1640 at Manchester Art Gallery as part of a three-year national tour, entitled Van Dyck: A Masterpiece for Everyone, supported by the Art Fund and HLF.
Alongside Van Dyck’s iconic image, Artists in the Frame features 19th and 20th century self-portraits by artists including Wyndham Lewis and Adolphe Valette from Manchester Art Gallery’s collection. Wyndham Lewis’ portrayal of himself as the great Renaissance painter Raphael is one of a series Lewis produced, each dramatising a different aspect of his personality. Adolphe Valette’s self-portrait with its flat, asymmetrical composition and oriental blue-and-white ginger jar expresses the enduring influence of Japanese art on the artist.
The show will also include three works borrowed directly from artists. Pleating Time a work by Sophie Ploeg, winner of the BP Portrait Travel award in 2013, is part of ‘The Lace Trail’ project and is inspired by 17th century portraits, resonating with the Van Dyck portrait as well as Manchester Art Gallery’s 17th century Dutch collections. A Map of Days by Grayson Perry offers a different kind of self-portrait that doesn't include a likeness of himself. Through words and the imagery of a walled town he explores his identity, character, and personality. Commissioned especially for the exhibition, graphic artist Karrie Fransman’s Selves Portrait responds directly to Van Dyck’s famous work and tells the story of the creation of a self-portrait. Her many selves jostle around the frame and represent the struggle of deciding which self to represent.
Also exhibited from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection are works by Julian Opie, Sarah Lucas and Chris Ofili. Julian Opie’s distinctive style reduces the features that distinguish individuals to a bare minimum. Taking an innovative approach to realism, Opie’s self-portrait is computer generated and uses algorithms to represent the artist’s breathing and blinking. In contrast to this, renowned British artist Sarah Lucas’ Self Portrait with a Mug of Tea is from a photographic series that explores her identity as a woman and artist, both defiant and vulnerable. An early oil self-portrait by Manchester born Chris Ofili was painted when he was a student at Chelsea School of Art.
Artists in the Frame: Self-portraits by Van Dyck and Others is curated by Rebecca Milner.