|Rembrandt July 15, 1606|
|Rubens June 28, 1577|
You know what – there seem to be more artists born in Cancer month than at any other time of year. You will see what I mean when you scroll down the page. A lot got left out. For example, Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862) prided himself on leaving no self-portraits behind, so he’s not here today. And he was a dab hand with a brush.
Of today’s crop Frida Kahlo, Rembrandt and David Hockney were and are also exceptionally prolific self-portraitists, which has meant even more to choose from. Interestingly, Kahlo looks pretty much the same in all her pictures – they are like icons of herself – whereas with Rembrandt’s portraits you can trace his aging from fresh-faced stripling to care-worn old man. Hockney’s are an on-going experiment in ways of seeing and representing what he sees.
The thing I love about self-portraits is the gaze. And I think some of the painters have succeeded in revealing the soul in their eyes more vividly than almost anyone else. I’m thinking especially of Hopper, Rembrandt, Degas and Chagall here – all of whom seem to gaze with such limpid intensity. But equally Wyeth and Modigliani remain hidden. Both of them of course are famous for painting women stripped bare.
|Edgar Degas July 19, 1834.
What a master of colour!
One of the things about this exercise is that it has made me look at certain artists with fresh eyes. I noticed at once that several of the (widely acknowledged) greatest colourists of all time have Cancer Suns – Rubens, Degas, Hockney. This made me think again about Frida Kahlo’s use of colour, which is, now I look again, superb.
So I do ask myself what is it with the Sun in Cancer?
This is the fourth sign of the Zodiac so we are still in the quadrant of the self. It’s still all about me. And as a water sign, of course, it’s about the emotional me. It’s also a cardinal sign. Cardinals are doers. That emotional me needs to be expressed.
The question most likely to be asked by a Cancer Sun is “How do I feel?” With each of Rembrandt’s self-portraits, you can almost see him asking himself that question.
Frida Kahlo’s work is entirely an exploration of herself and her lacerated emotional world. She’s a big influence on the contemporary artist Tracey Emin whose emotional world is on full-frontal display at the Hayward gallery in London this summer. Both women are particularly fascinated by their own bodies, which would seem rather earthy, but in fact their art is an outpouring of their ragged emotions.
But the emotions don’t always have to be screaming. Hopper was also, of course, exploring emotions in his work – loneliness for one. And Chagall‘s entire output (nearly) was devoted to an especially Cancerian emotion – nostalgia.
|James MacNeill Whistler, also July 19, 1834.
The more you look at this portrait, the odder it is
|Edward Hopper July 22, 1882. Soft features, soulful eyes|
|Modigliani, July 12, 1884|
|Marc Chagall (brooding, soulful) July 6, 1887|
|Giorgio Morandi (where are the bottles?) July 20, 1890|
|Frida Kahlo July 6, 1890. Apparently her Moon was at 29 degrees and a bit Taurus, but I wonder…|
|Andrew Wyeth, July 12, 1917. Again the more
you look the stranger it is.
|David Hockney, July 7 1937|
|Chuck Close in 2000. (July 5, 1940)|
Tracey Emin (July 3, 1963)