About this artwork
Over a century after its creation, the French novelist Marcel Proust said of Jean-Siméon Chardin’s audacious self-portrait, “This old oddity is so intelligent, so crazy . . . above all, so much of an artist.” In a fitting finale to a long, successful career as a painter of still lifes and genre scenes, Chardin turned in his last decade to a new medium, pastel, and to a new subject matter, portraits (primarily self-portraits). Eye problems arising from lead-based oil paint poisoning were the partial cause of this dramatic change. Of his thirteen extant pastel self-portraits, the most famous are versions of the example seen here, with the casually dressed, aging artist in his studio. A virtuoso colorist, the septuagenarian here revealed a joyously free stroke and palette. Nonetheless, the construction of the figure is solid and rigorous, adding to his powerful presence. This composition was created at the same time as a portrait of the artist’s wife for the 1775 Salon (Musée du Louvre, Paris). A year later, Chardin—with greater daring—replicated the pair. These later portraits were separated for almost two hundred years, until they were reunited in the collection of the Art Institute.
- Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin
- Self-Portrait with a Visor
- Pastel on blue laid paper, mounted on canvas
- 457 × 374 mm
- Clarence Buckingham Collection and the Harold Joachim Memorial Fund