Self-Portrait “as Rembrandt II”
Self-Portrait “as Rembrandt II”

Arnulf Rainer
1969/70

Material
Mixed media

Collection
Dom Museum Wien

Inv.Nr.
OM/1550

Mixed media
Graphic art
Modern and Contemporary art

On view

Query
Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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Self-Portrait “as Rembrandt II”

The radical discussion of historical and contemporary art by painting over a given art work is typical for Arnulf Rainer as well as the concept of art in the 20th century.

We see the black-and-white portrait photograph of a man. He stands or sits sideways to the camera and, having his head turned toward his right shoulder, looks out of the picture. The photo was overpainted with mostly horizontal strokes with red and yellow wax crayons in the face area so that no individual features can be made out. This deprives the portrait of its portrait character, i.e., its likeness to a particular person. Only the signature bottom left reveals the photographed subject’s identity: “Arnulf Rainer as Rembrandt II.” Both the posture and the curly hair of Rainer’s self-portrait evoke Rembrandt van Rijn’s baroque self-portraits.

The Austrian artist Arnulf Rainer is known for such overpaintings of his own and others’ works. He has often used photographic reproductions of works by popular artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, or Vincent van Gogh. Some artist colleagues even provide Rainer with originals to be overpainted. Rainer enters into a direct dialogue with old and new painting. His overpaintings, which sometimes strike us as gesturally expressive, while presenting themselves as carefully considered and calmed, may be read in two ways: on the one hand, they highlight extant structures and literally underline parts of a work—Rainers describes his approach as one “perfecting the pictorial material.” On the other hand, they efface something and overwrite art history so that new art can come into being.