Frankly, moody is the word that comes to mind when I look at these people.
The thing that always strikes me about this intense self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) is just how modern he looks. I can imagine running into him at the check out in my local supermarket (dressed in leather). Look at how beautifully he's drawn his hand.
|Albrecht Dürer, aged 28.|
Courbet did loads of self-portraits. One gets the feeling that whenever he couldn't find a subject he painted himself. This is certainly his funniest.
Maybe he's depicting his mad inner twin - that's a character all Geminis are familiar with. That's the anarchic, mischievous part of your nature which sometimes just has to be unleashed and allowed to run around for a while. Some of us with a touch of the Geminis have to learn the hard way to do the unleashing in a rather calculating fashion - timing is everything. This picture is also called the Desperate Man.
Gustave Courbet wrote this many years after painting this picture: "I have always lived in freedom; let me end my life free; when I am dead let this be said of me: 'He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty.'"
These days he'd probably get the label Outsider Artist hung around his neck; back in the 1850s they liked to call him a Realist.
Gauguin too was famously anarchic – he was pretty much self-taught and before he decided to devote himself to painting full-time he was a stockbroker - for years. He only became a full-time painter when the stockmarket crashed in 1883. Transiting Uranus in Virgo was opposing his natal Pisces Saturn, squaring his Gemini Sun and sextiling natal Jupiter. Effectively, the transiting planet of revolution broke up that mutable Sun-Saturn square.
And here in another person who had to leave home to become who she was meant to be. Now I have to confess I'm disappointed with this one, because I think Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) is a wonderful painter. I've looked for a better self-portrait but clearly she had no need to paint her mirrored self. Interesting.
Like Courbet and Gauguin, she found herself when she stopped painting conventionally, which she certainly had the technique to do well and joined the Salon des Refusés in 1879 - with revolutionary tr Uranus in the 7th squaring her Sun (identity) and her Midheaven (public face). Transiting Uranus can often be a sign of funky people coming into your life and when Uranus went into her seventh house of relationships, she met the painter Edgar Degas, who changed the whole direction of her career, freeing her to create in the way that was right for her.
|Degas' portrait of Cassat|
Every Rousseau painting seems to be telling a story; a story you might not quite know but it's on the edges of your mind, somewhere just beyond. And that makes your imagination stretch out to catch the tail end of a tale.
His painting was criticized as childish and naive - well, it was and is - and so what? Childish naivete is just the ticket on a rainy afternoon in June.