If you could re-create your identity for public consumption, what qualities or characteristics would you want to convey? This question is, in part, what makes self-portraiture one of the most fascinating subjects in the study of art. Discover how artists from Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei have answered this question.
On view July 16 through October 16 at the National Galleries of Scotland, “Facing the World: Self-portraits from Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei” is an all-encompassing exhibition devoted to one of the most complex and dynamic subjects in the history of art.
During the self-portraiture process, the artist navigates, interprets, and employs a web of physical, social, and personal elements specific to him- or herself to arrive at a convincing artificial presence — a presence that often conveys, among many other qualities, status, pride, piety, and character. There seems to be no limit to the interpretive possibilities because self-portraiture is so personal to the artist creating it.
Some could argue that the convention of self-portraiture — i.e., the construction of an artificial identity — is more relevant today than ever, especially since “social media thrives on self-portraits and the continual presentation of self,” as the museum writes. Whether one enjoys traditional works or the more conceptual artists, all styles and types of self-portraits can be found at this exhibition, which is sure to leave visitors asking themselves, “Who am I?”
To learn more, visit the National Galleries of Scotland.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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