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Self-portrait of John Holland

Date made: 1890-1910

Artist: Holland, John

Description: John Holland has represented himself as a working, middle-aged artist, who from the evidence of his clothes, is making a reasonable living. A self-portrait however is rarely, if ever, a neutral or objective image. Regardless of how ordinary Holland may have appeared to make himself, the painting is a very strong portrait. He has shown himself standing with a very frank open pose and expression. It is a dynamic portrait showing the artist in the midst of his work, holding the tools of his trade: a palette knife, brushes and a palette full of oils. One can speculate as to whether he would normally have painted in a three-piece suit or whether he would have worn an artist’s smock to have protected his clothes whilst he was working.

Background:
For an artist that is now best-known for his large charcoal drawings of detailed Manx coastal scenes and Douglas views, this colourful portrait illustrates another side to his artistic work. It offers a glimpse of the person who was a popular member of the Manx artistic community at the turn of the 19th century.

Comparisons:
Art is often about the manipulation of reality in a bid to improve upon the sometimes less flattering aspects of nature. It is interesting that Holland’s self-portrait is, on first impression, so ordinary and unglamorous. He has painted exactly what he sees in the mirror: a middle-aged man with greying hair, a double chin and bags under his eyes, in mid-brush stroke whilst painting at his easel. His only concession to the traditional image of the artist is the slightly unkempt hair and a rather racy blue and white polka dot tie fastened in a loose knot. The relatively informal stance taken by Holland is highlighted by comparing his portrait with the far more staid pose of Harold Miller and the bohemian wildness of Franz Hoepfner.

Measurements: unframed artwork: 52 cm x 37 cm

Materials: Oil on canvas

Object name: painting

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: L21819

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