Gouache, graphite, metalpoint, watercolor and crayon on prepared paper
Image/Sheet: 35.8cm x 30.7cm (14 1/8" x 12 1/16")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
America's leading futurist artist, Joseph Stella created monumental abstract paintings characterized by dramatic contrasts of light and color, thrusting diagonals, and dynamic movement. But this self-portrait focuses instead on self-revelation, reflecting the contradictions of Stella's artistic and personal life. Not known to be an introspective person, the Italian-born artist studied his own image more intensely as he grew older and more reclusive. Although the pose here recalls the classical Renaissance profiles he admired, the intensity and complexity of the image belie this tradition. Touches of red on the lips, eyelid, nose, and cheek are unsettling. The turbulent pattern and acrid yellow splotches in the background reinforce the sense of anxiety. Yet the concentration of his gaze, the flare of his nostril, and the set of his lips convey the spirit of a headstrong individual who persists despite emotional turmoil.