13 Amazing portraits of artists painted by other artists
Have you ever wanted to see your favourite artists through the eyes of your favourite artists? You can! Here are some iconic portraits of artists by the likes of Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Painting a fellow artist must be one of the most challenging tasks for any artist. After all, the model might be critical of the outcome with the added pressure that they are likely to be accomplished critics of technique, style and composition. And yet, that doesn’t seem to have put off great painters over time.
Currently, the National Gallery in London is staging a landmark exhibition of paintings by the portraitist Lucian Freud, grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (New Perspectives, until 22nd January 2023). In this comprehensive exhibition there are three paintings of other great artists, all contemporaries of Freud—Francis Bacon; David Hockney and Frank Auerbach. But he was not the only great artist to take up this challenge. The Pre-Raphaelites and Impressionist artists were also prone to painting their peers.
Francis Bacon, David Hockney & Frank Auerbach by Lucian Freud
Lucian Freud was deeply influenced by Francis Bacon and it’s not hard to recognise some of Bacon’s frank interpretations of the human flesh in Freud’s work. In Francis Bacon, 1956, Freud’s portrait is half completed, the hair and neck left undone. This is a deliberate ploy by Freud to show the workings of portraiture and how his paintings are formed. It’s easy to imagine the artists discussing technique as the painting progressed.
In an article for Sotheby’s in 2021, Martin Gayford, an author and art critic for The Spectator, sheds light on Freud’s technique and the fact that criticism didn’t affect the artist. Gayford himself had sat for Freud in 2013 and it was this encounter that put him in mind of the portrait, David Hockney, 2002, which was being sold by Sotheby’s for over £8 million.
Apparently, Hockney’s friends thought the likeness inadequate—Hockney peers over wired lenses looking tired and dishevelled. But as Gayford explains, “This criticism, by the way, wouldn’t have bothered Lucian very much since he subscribed to Van Gogh’s dictum that a single person can provide the subject for many different portraits.”
The portrait of Hockney was achieved over 120 hours during which Hockney fell asleep, felt unwell, took off and returned on other days. Most interestingly, Gayford elucidates the look of intense scrutiny in Hockney’s eyes is exactly that of Freud as he painted: “Lucian too had certain looks movements and gestures one only saw when he was at work.”
Like Freud, Frank Auerbach was a prominent exponent of post-war British figurative art. Both men shared the similar experience of emigrating to the UK as sons of Jewish Berlin families fleeing Nazi Germany. They were part of a circle of friends as young artists and painted the same people. The painting Frank Auerbach, 1975 is a tender portrait by Freud who captures Auerbach in heartfelt contemplation, his forehead burrowed, looking down. The two artists remained close friends for nearly 40 years until Freud died in 2011.
Elizabeth Siddal by John Everett Millais & Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The artist Elizabeth Siddal (1829–1862) was a favourite model for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who were inspired by the sincerity of fourteenth and fifteenth century Italian art.
The Pre-Raphaelites painted each other, but Siddal takes centre stage as the artist painted by artists. Her own work includes Sir Patrick Spens, c.1856, and Lady Clare, 1857.
John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851–2 © Public domain
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Beata Beatrix, 1864–70 © Public domain
She was painted by numerous Pre-Raphaelites, including by John Everett Millais in Ophelia (1851–2) from Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which she lies in a river drowning. She was painted posthumously by her grieving husband Dante Gabriel Rossetti, in Beata Beatrix based on Dante’s Alighieri, first painted between 1864–1870.
Vincent Van Gogh by Paul Gauguin
In Avant et après (1903), Paul Gauguin’s autobiography, the painter reminisced about living with Vincent Van Gogh in the famous “Yellow House” in Arles. They eventually fell out after a disturbing row when Van Gogh mutilated his own ear.
Vincent Van Gogh, Portrait of Gauguin, 1888 © Public domain
Here Van Gogh painted Gauguin on jute, Portrait of Gauguin, 1888. The portrait looks rough and heavy but wonderfully effective. Van Gogh had to use thick paint on this canvas to compensate for the material. Gauguin, in a bright red beret, faces away from the artist as he works, his features crafted in strong stokes and shapes.
Vincent Van Gogh, Self-Portrait (Dedicated to Paul Gauguin), 1888 © Public domain
Van Gogh then painted a self-portrait for Gauguin in 1888 and Gauguin painted a self-portrait for Van Gogh entitled Self-Portrait Dedicated to Vincent van Gogh (Les Miserables) in which another artist and friend, Emile Bernard, inserted a mini portrait of himself.
Claude Monet & Auguste Rodin by John Singer Sargent
Born in Italy to American parents the celebrated artist John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) created exceptional portraits of his close friends including artists Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin. These portraits are intimate and penetrating character studies.
John Singer Sargent, Portrait de Rodin, 1884 © Public domain
Sargent painted the sculptor Auguste Rodin in 1884 to impress his older peer. Emerging from a dark background is the well-modelled head of the renowned sculptor. This painting impressed Rodin so much he declared that John Singer Sargent was the Vandyke of their time.
John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood, 1885 © Public domain
John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet, 1887 © Public domain
Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood, 1885 shows Monet working outdoors at Giverny, near Paris. Sargent admired and adopted this approach in his own works. Two years later he painted a profile portrait of the older artist whom he revered, simply entitled Claude Monet, 1887, which is painted in a similar, old master’s fashion to Rodin’s portrait.
Alfred Sisley & Claude Monet by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
In the twists and turns of French Impressionist paintings of each other, Renoir preceded his portrait of Claude Monet with a painting of Alfred Sisley. Renoir, a good friend of Sisley as well as Monet, paints both artists with fondness.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Alfred Sisley, 1868 © Public domain
In his Portrait of Alfred Sisley (1868)—a fellow Impressionist of British descent—the well-to-do Sisley sits resplendent. There is some contestation that this is a self-portrait.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Claude Monet, 1875 © Public domain
In Portrait of Claude Monet (1875), which hangs at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, Monet is depicted relaxed and content in his own work, dressed in an artist’s smock, easel and paint brush poised.
Paul Cezanne by Camille Pissarro
Other Impressionists, Paul Cezanne and Camille Pissarro painted each other on several occasions. The most known work is Portrait of Paul Cezanne by Pissarro (1874), painted in Pissarro’s studio in Pontoise.
Camille Pissarro, Portrait of Paul Cezanne, 1874 © Public domain
Pissarro can be credited with discovering Cezanne and taking him on as a protégé. In this painting Cezanne looks very settled and content under the gaze of his close peer, dressed in his everyday clothes, his beard untrimmed.
There is also a miniature portrait of the painter Gustave Courbet, an exponent of Realism, within the painting. The portrait hung in Pissarro's studio until his death in 1903.
Read more: The 17 scariest works of art of all time
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