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About the artist

Born in Knowsley (near Liverpool) in 1901, Christopher Wood moved to Paris at the age of 20. There he studied drawing at the Académie Julian and entered fashionable artistic circles, associating with the likes of Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau.

About this work

When he painted this Self-Portrait (1927), Wood was still attempting to establish a personal style and make his reputation as an artist. These circumstances help to explain the unusually large dimensions of the work (the figure is life-size) and the imposing stance of the painter, which make this a major statement for self-promotion. Wood presents himself as an artist at the heart of the capital of the avant-garde. He records his appearance and the tabletop still-life to his right meticulously, using them as props to build up an impression of his character and status for the viewer.

The triangular-patterned jumper makes direct reference to Harlequin and, indirectly, to theatre, both popular themes in French art throughout the 1920s. The colour scheme of the jumper is the same as that of the entire painting: the red and brown extending into the buildings, the blue into the sky and roofs, and the black and white providing the details. Wood appears rather hemmed in by the cityscape behind, which has the flatness typical of a stage set. The disconcerting emptiness of the eyes makes the face look like a mask, through which the sky is visible. These characteristics highlight Wood’s interest in the ambiguous nature of theatre and the dramatic arts.

Where can I see it?

This work goes on show in Christopher Wood: Sophisticated Primitive at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester from 2 July-2 October 2016. The exhibition features over 80 paintings, set designs and drawings by the artist made in the ten years before his untimely death aged 29 in 1930.