A unique exploration of self-portraits by two artists born nearly a century apart
This beautifully illustrated book draws together for the first time the work of French artist Claude Cahun (1894–1954) and British contemporary artist Gillian Wearing (b. 1963). Although they were born almost a century apart, their work shares similar themes—gender, identity, masquerade, and performance.
In 2015, Sarah Howgate traveled with Wearing to the island of Jersey, in the English Channel, where Cahun lived and worked until her death, and where her archive is housed. In examining Cahun's photographs, Wearing was struck by the remarkable parallels with her own explorations of the self-image through photography. Cahun was a contemporary of André Breton and Man Ray, but her work was rarely exhibited during her lifetime. Wearing, who has exhibited extensively and is a recipient of Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize, was no stranger to Cahun’s work when she made the trip to Jersey—her 2012 self-portrait, Me as Cahun holding a mask of my face, is a reconstruction of Cahun’s iconic Self-portrait, made in 1927. In this book, Howgate examines the work of both artists, investigating how their cultural, historical, political, and personal contexts have affected their interpretations of similar themes.
This book features stunning reproductions of more than ninety key works, presented thematically by artistic evolution, performance, masquerade, and memento mori, among others. Also included are new works by Wearing, a revealing interview with her by Howgate, and an illuminating essay on Cahun by writer and curator Dawn Ades.
National Portrait Gallery, London
March 9–May 29, 2017
Sarah Howgate is senior curator of contemporary portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, London. She is the coauthor of Lucian Freund Portraits, 21st-Century Portraits and The Portrait Now. Dawn Ades is professor emerita of art history at the University of Essex and the author of Art in Latin America: The Modern Era, 1820–1980, among many other books.
"The presentation of these related bodies of work--and the hints and clues they offer about divergent ways of approaching the question of identity—provides a unique platform for a thoughtful and eloquent contemporary artist to delve deeply into what she has learned from the study of an esteemed predecessor."—Shelley Rice, editor of Inverted Odysseys: Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, Cindy Sherman
Table of Contents:
Director's foreword 6
Curious spirits, Sarah Howgate 8
My Polaroid years 41
Transcending time 77
Later life and memento mori, Sarah Howgate 133
Gillian Wearing in conversation with Sarah Howgate 160
Claude Cahun's 'self-portraits,' Dawn Ades 174
Claude Cahun: chronology, Tanya Bentley 188
Gillian Wearing: chronology, Tanya Bentley 194
Curator's acknowledgements 200
Further reading 201
Exhibition list and picture credits 202
Published in association with the National Portrait Gallery, London