Liverpool artwork of the day – Monday September 10 2007. ‘Three Self Portraits with a White Wall’ 1957 by John Bratby (1928-1992), Oil on hardboard. In the Walker
Sending myself an e-birthday-card today from the NML collection of e-cards. He’s only 29 in this self-portrait but looks as old as me. Everyone looked old in the 1950’s didn’t they?
Bratby won the first prize in the junior section of the first John Moores Liverpool Exhibition with this picture. The twenty-eight year old painter’s vision is both matter-of-fact and elaborate. Most self-portraits involve using mirrors but few incorporate them in this obtrusive manner. Bratby paints himself in the act of looking at himself on separate occasions during the painting of this self-portrait.
The mirrors reflect a true-to-life scene, the paint is applied quickly and vibrantly, and there is an offhand air to the work’s design, all of which creates a sense of honesty and immediacy. But the relation between the three versions of the figure implies a more fragmented, psychologically complex narrative.