Given the omnipresence of social media and digital photographs these days, selfies are everywhere. A survey commissioned by PicMonkey suggests that nearly half of all U.S. adults have taken selfies, making it enough of a cultural impact that "selfie" was crowned as Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year for 2013. Critics suggest that the selfie is a symbol of today’s narcissistic youth culture. However, self-portraiture is neither new nor limited to teenagers or even the medium of photography.
Woman Juggling (self portrait), 2005.
Gelatin silver photograph with oil paint on panel
Museum purchase with funds from Nancy G. Dickenson, 2005
Photography is a comparatively young form of art. By the time photography was invented, self-portraiture had already developed extensively in other mediums such as painting and drawings. In fact, one of the first photographic portraits ever created was a self-portrait by Robert Cornelius in 1839.
Francis Frith Anne Noggle
Self-Portrait in Turkish Summer Costume, 1857 Self Image From Series "Face Lift", 1975
albumen photograph gelatin silver print
Gift of Jane Reese Williams, 1996 Bequest of the Rick Dillingham Estate, 1994
The New Mexico Museum of Art owns several very different works of art that explore the self as subject. They range from close-up to distant, realistic to exagerated, serious to whimsical. They are paintings, photographs, lithographs, and drawings. Clearly, the self is a subject that has resonated with a large cross-section of the public throughout art history.
This painting by Emil Bisttram is an example of the typical "professional artist at work" pose.
Above: Self Portrait, 1935. Oil on Canvas. Gift of Mrs. Emil Bisttram, 1978