Arts Everyday Living: Escaping Social Distancing– Self-Portraits, Exploring Personal Identity






March is Women’s History Month so I am featuring several female artists over the centuries, from the 1600s to the 20th century. Self portraits have been significant in the history of women’s art, reflecting a need to explore and establish personal identity.

I have chosen a variety of painters, comprising a number of nationalities.  Some artists, like Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun and Berthe Morisot, are well documented while in other cases, little information (as you will see) is available. Also, the majority come from artistic backgrounds, influenced by family members such as a father, brother, or husband.  With a few exceptions, most of the artists below were married.

(Note: I would include the most prolific self-portraitist Frida Kahlo but her works of art are still protected by copyright.  The same is true for more contemporary female painters including many African-American artists.)



Judith Leyster (1609-1660)

Judith Leyster, Self Portrait, c. 1630, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Successful Artist of the Dutch Golden Age

“Lost” for Centuries: Paintings Often Attributed to Frans Hals

Finally Rediscovered, Self Portrait Hangs in National Gallery Today


Therese Concordia Mengs Maron (1725-1806)

Therese Mengs Maron, Self-Portrait, 1745, pastel on paper, Dresden State Art Collections, Dresden, Germany

From a Family of Artists, including brother Anton Raphael Mengs, NeoClassical Painter

Although German, Spent Most of Her Career in Rome

Specialized in Pastels, Miniatures, and Enamels


Elisabeth Vigee Le-Brun, (1755-1842)

Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, Self-Portrait, 1800, oil on canvas, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Top Artist of  Royal France: Marie Antoinette’s Favorite Portraitist

Escaped the Guillotine–Spent 12 Years in Exile

Travels Throughout Europe, Including Russia, then Returns to France

Prolific Self-Portraitist–Can You Believe She is 45?


Katarina Ivanovic (1811-1882)

Katarina Ivanovic, Self Portrait, n.d., oil, Serbian Museum of Art, Belgrade, Serbia

First Serbian Woman Artist

Studied in Vienna, Traveled Widely

Mainly Known as Portraitist


Elise Ransonnet-Villez (1843-1899)

Elise Ransonnet-Villez, Self Portrait, 19th century, oil on canvas, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Austrian Artist, Worked in Vienna

Created Famous Portrait of Franz Lizst

Married a Count


Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)

Berthe Morisot, Self Portrait, 1885, oil on canvas, Musee Marmottan, Paris, France

French Impressionist Par Excellence

Colleague of Monet, Renoir, and Degas

Great-niece of Fragonard, Inspiration of Edouard Manet, Wife of Eugene Manet


Anna Bilinska (1857-1893)

Anna Bilinska, Self Portrait, 1892, oil on canvas, National Museum in Warsaw, Poland

Although Polish, Spent Most of Career in Paris

Accomplished Portraitist, Especially Self-Portraits

Still Not Well Known in 2021, Even in Native Country


Milly Childers (1866-1922)

.Milly Childers, Self Portrait, 1889, oil on canvas, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds, UK

British Artist, Daughter of Member of Parliament and Cabinet Member

Portrait of Father, One of Best Known Paintings

Also Produced Landscapes and Church Interiors


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907)

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Self Portrait, 1897, gouache, Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum

Considered Early Modernist Artist

Fascinated by Self-Discovery, Creates 23 Self-Portraits, Including Nude

Dies at 31, Shortly After Giving Birth


Zinaida Serebriakova (1884-1967)

Zinaida Serebriakova, Self Portrait, 1909, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

Female Dr. Zhivago, Life Transformed by Russian Revolution

Popular Artist, Comes from Multi-talented Family

Loss of Husband During Political Turmoil, Exiled to Paris with 2 of 4 Children

Continues Artistic Career, Self Portraits an Important Theme 


Elisabeth Chaplin (1890-1982)

Elisabeth Chaplin, Self Portrait, 1908, oil on canvas, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

French Artistic Background; Uncle Teacher of Mary Cassatt

Settled Several Years in Tuscany, Source of Creativity of Landscape and Portraiture

Donated Collection of Works to Florence


Anna Zinkeisen (1901-1976)

Anna Zinkeisen, Self Portrait, 1944, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK

Anna and Her Sister Doris Worked Together As Artists, Scottish

Medical Artist During World War II, Depicted Scenes of Conflict’s Effect

Anna and Doris Decorate RMS liner Queen Elizabeth with Mural


Milena Pavlovic Barili (1909-1945)

Milena Pavlovic Barili, Self Portrait, c. 1938, oil on canvas, location unknown

From Serbia, But Left Country Early, Influenced by European Art World

Considered Surrealist, Created Dream-like Works of Art

Spent Last Years in New York City, Illustrator for Vogue and Harper’s Weekly

Died in Horse-Riding Accident at 35


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