November 03, 2011

Artists Turn Spotlight on Themselves and Their World in New Exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum

Exhibition brings together 41 drawings, photographs and sculpture exploring artistic identity over the past five centuries

Images of the Artist

At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center
November 15, 2011–February 12, 2012

Alexandria Sivak
Getty Communications
(310) 440-6473 

LOS ANGELES—Images of the Artist, a fascinating exhibition that explores artistic identity and image-making by showcasing some of the ways in which artists have represented themselves, their activities and their surroundings, will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, from November 15, 2011 to February 12, 2012. Spanning 500 years, from the late Renaissance to the 20th century, the exhibition’s 41 interconnected objects feature compelling drawings, prints, photographs, paintings, and sculptures from the Getty Museum’s collections, complemented by loans from local institutions and private collections.

Divided into four sections, Images of the Artist suggests how artists have found inspiration through self-examination. The first section presents an intriguing group of portraits of artists, while another section illustrates how artists have lived and worked. A third grouping of images shows allegories of the artist and his trade. A final category highlights works in which the artist’s likeness and presence are more elusive than in the other works on view. The structure of the show follows a natural progression from the most recognizable of artistic self-references to gradually less expected and less orthodox depictions, where merely a trace of the artist is discernible.

“Images of artists have been fertile ground for artistic inquiry for centuries,” said Edouard Kopp, assistant curator of drawings at the Museum and co-curator of the exhibition. “Portraits are the most common type, yet there are many less direct ways in which artists have sought to represent themselves.”

Portraits and Self-portraits

The most familiar images of artists, portraits have traditionally been intended to record recognizable likenesses of sitters for posterity. Self-portraits may be objectifying representations of the artist’s appearance, express the artist’s state of mind or reflect his or her position in society, whether elevated or impoverished. Also, portraits often give a glimpse into the relationship between the artist and the sitter.

In Charles Samuel Keene’s Self-Portrait from about 1845, the young British artist and illustrator used pen and brown ink to draw his face in dark shadow and bright light. This unfinished, intimate drawing, which was never exhibited in his time, appears to have been created for its own sake. In contrast to such a private endeavor, Nadar’s Self-Portraits as an Aeronaut were advertising vehicles intended to attract spectators who paid to witness balloon rides. In these photographs, dated to about 1863, the French artist and pioneer of aerial photography poses in the basket of a makeshift balloon, as if to puncture the seriousness inherent in formal self-portraiture.

The Artist’s Life and Space

The Romantic notion of the artist as a solitary, tormented genius toiling away in a modest studio still persists to this day. While many images show artists drawing or painting alone, this section broadens that perspective by portraying artists socializing with teachers and fellow artists or studying the art of the past.

In Taddeo Drawing by Moonlight in Calabrese’s House, the artist Federico Zuccaro depicts his older brother, Taddeo, who worked as apprentice to an established artist in Rome. In this late 16th century drawing, the aspiring artist, who was not given a lamp to use at night, is shown sketching by moonlight, while the rest of the household sleeps. In Hubert Robert’s A Draftsman in the Capitoline Gallery, an artist sits on the floor of an immense gallery, studiously copying an ancient statue. Galleries, rich with antiquities, were a common training ground for aspiring artists.

Allegories of the Artist

Since the Renaissance period, artists have often employed allegory—the use of personifications or symbols to embody abstract ideas—to create works about themselves or the act of artistic creation. The visual vocabulary of allegory, however, has its roots in classical antiquity. A highlight in this section of the exhibition is Pygmalion and Galatea, an irreverent take on the ancient Greek myth of creation by the famous Spanish painter Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes. The work reverses the order of events with the sculptor Pygmalion laboriously carving a statue of an already animated Galatea, who has yet to win the love of her creator.

Traces of the Artist

This final section spotlights images in which the artist’s appearance is either fragmentary, distorted or simply missing, with shadows or fingerprints as the only tangible traces of the artist’s presence. For example, Paul Gauguin’s Head of a Tahitian Woman, an unsigned charcoal drawing, bears the artist’s fingerprints all over the sheet. “Our hope is that visitors discover different layers of meaning about the ways artists have represented themselves through the ages,” explains Rachel Sloan, a co-curator of the exhibition and former graduate intern in the Getty’s Drawings Department. “These artists have approached this task with an incredible degree of emotional intimacy and humor.”

Images of the Artist will go on view November 15, 2011 through February 12, 2012 in the West Pavilion of the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center.

IMAGES AT TOP: Pygmalion and Galatea, about 1812–1820. Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746–1828). Brush and sepia wash. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles/ Mondrian’s Glasses and Pipe, 1926. André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985). Gelatin silver print. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. © Estate of André Kertész/ Self-Portrait, about 1845. Charles Samuel Keene (British, 1823-1891). Pen and brown ink over black chalk. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. 



Rebels and Martyrs: The Changing Image of the 19th-Century Artist
Alexander Sturgis, director of the Holburne Museum in Bath, England, explores how artists thought about and depicted themselves in light of the Romantic myth, which saw the artist as heroic and rebellious, isolated and suffering.

Thursday, December 1,  7:00 p.m.
Museum Lecture Hall, Getty Center


The Art of Self-Portrait Drawing
Join instructor Zhenya Gershman in this daylong drawing workshop exploring the art of self-portrait drawing. Participants learn principles of face and head structure, explore a range of facial expressions, and develop the ability to capture likeness through a series of guided exercises in the studios and galleries. Course fee $125 (includes materials and lunch). 

Wednesday, November 16,  10:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Museum Studios, Getty Center

Sculpting the Portrait in Clay
In this two-day sculpture workshop with artist Peter Zokosky, participants work from a live model and sculpt the human head in half-scale. The course emphasizes forms that make up the human head and capture the likeness of the individual model. Instructions, demonstrations, and gallery visits support the hands-on experience. Course fee $165 (includes materials and lunch both days).

Thursdays, December 8 and 15,  10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Course repeats Wednesdays, February 8 and 15,  10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Museum Studios, Getty Center


Curator’s Gallery Talks
Edouard Kopp, assistant curator of Drawings, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Rachel Sloan, Curatorial Research Fellow, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, lead a gallery talk on the exhibition. Meet under the stairs in the Museum Entrance Hall.

Thursday, December 15,  2:30 p.m.
Wednesday, February 1,  2:30 p.m.


Dream a Little Dream: Artists in Film
This film series presents depictions of working artists in a way that complements—in moving form—the exhibition Images of the Artist. All screenings are held at the Getty Center in the Harold M. Williams Auditorium. Reservations available beginning December 20.

Blood of a Poet (France, 1930) and Testament of Orpheus (France, 1960)
Jean Cocteau (1889–1963), one of the most versatile artists of the 20th century, explores the joys and hardships of being an artist in this double feature of the first and third films of his Orphic Trilogy.

Saturday, January 14,  3:00 p.m.

The Moderns (USA, 1988)
Alan Rudolph’s homage to 1920s Paris delights in having real-life personalities—Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway—interact with his fictional characters in the smoky cafes and esteemed salons of this radically creative place and time.

Saturday, January 14,  7:00 p.m.

The Draughtman’s Contract (Great Britain, 1982)
Peter Greenaway, who was trained as a painter, made this period film that joyfully blends an intellectual exploration of cultural and social history with his own singular artistic style.

Sunday, January 15,  12:00 p.m.

Caravaggio (Great Britain, 1986)
Derek Jarman was a painter who made beautiful films that are intensely personal and moving. In his major film debut, Jarman realizes a 17th-century artist who, like Jarman, didn’t shy from controversy.

Sunday, January 15,  3:00 p.m.


Publications are available in the Getty Museum Store, by calling (310) 440-7059, or online at

Taddeo and Federico Zuccaro: Artist-Brothers in Renaissance Rome
Julian Brooks
With essays by Robert Williams, Peter Lukehart, and Christina Strunck

Federico Zuccaro’s 20 drawings of the early life of his older brother Taddeo are presented in their historical and artistic context. This illustrated catalogue also examines the role of copying from the masters in the training of young Renaissance artists. (Hardcover, $49.95)

Looking at Prints, Drawings, and Watercolours: A Guide to Technical Terms
Paul Goldman
Revised Edition

This illustrated reference guide concisely explains over one hundred terms related to the processes and materials utilized in creating prints, drawings, and watercolours. (Paperback, $18.95)

Master Drawings Close-Up
Julian Brooks

The techniques of master draftsmen are explored through enlarged details of their most spectacular drawings. (Paperback, $24.95)

# # #

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations:  the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.


The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts, and photographs gathered internationally. The Museum’s mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.

Visiting the Getty Center
The Getty Center is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Monday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Center is always free. Parking is $15 per car, but $10 after 5 p.m. on Saturdays and for evening events. No reservations are required for parking or general admission. Reservations are required for event seating and groups of 15 or more. Please call (310) 440-7300 (English or Spanish) for reservations and information. The TTY line for callers who are deaf or hearing impaired is (310) 440-7305.The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California. 

Additional information is available at
Sign up for e-Getty at to receive free monthly highlights of events at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa via e-mail, or visit for a complete calendar of public programs.


You must be logged in to view this item.

This area is reserved for members of the news media. If you qualify, please update your user profile and check the box marked "Check here to register as an accredited member of the news media". Please include any notes in the "Supporting information for media credentials" box. We will notify you of your status via e-mail in one business day.