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Self-Portrait and Autobiography

A work made of oil and sand on canvas.

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  • A work made of oil and sand on canvas.




Alice Rahon
French, active Mexico, 1904–1987

About this artwork

Alice Rahon represented herself in this composition with a pallete in hand, standing atop a series of ascending switchbacks lined with abstracted depictions of animals, people, mountains, and trees. The self-portrait—one of just two the artist created—alludes to her itinerant lifestyle and her journey to becoming a painter. Originally a Surrealist poet based in Paris, Rahon left France in 1939 for Mexico City, where she took up painting as well as sculpture. Her fascination with the cultures and landscapes of Mexico led her to develop a style inspired by Paleolithic cave art. This work’s shimmering surface is composed of materials sourced from nature, including sand and volcanic ash, further grounding it in the place where it was created.


On View, Gallery 396


Modern Art


Alice Rahon


Self-Portrait and Autobiography

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil and sand on canvas


Inscribed verso: Alice Rahon / Mexico 48 / “autoretrato con autobiografia”


73.6 × 55.9 cm (28 × 22 in.)

Credit Line

Wirt D. Walker Endowment, Major Acquisitions Centennial, Luella Thomas, Samuel A. Marx, Simeon B. Williams Endowment, and Maurice D. Gelleher funds

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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