Art critic Laura Cumming takes a journey through more than five centuries of self-portraits and finds out how the greatest names in western art transformed themselves into their own masterpieces.
The film argues that self-portraits are a unique form of art, one that always reveals the truth of how artists saw themselves and how they wanted to be known to the world. Examining the works of key self-portraitists including Durer, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Warhol, Laura traces the development of the genre, uncovering the strange and various ways artists have managed to get their inner and outer selves to match up.
Laura investigates the stories behind key self-portraits, interviews artists as they attempt a self-portrait, and shows how the history of the self-portrait is about more than how art and artists have changed; it also charts the evolution of the way we see ourselves and what it means to be human.
She also discusses Courbet with Julian Barnes, Rembrandt's theatricality with Simon Callow, and meets the contemporary artists Mark Wallinger and Patrick Hughes, observing the latter making his first ever self-portrait.