The importance of his self-portraits in this period is demonstrated by his decision to exhibit seven self-portraits and nothing else in the 1920 ‘Group X’ show at the Mansard Gallery. Then again at the ‘Tyros and Portraits’ exhibition held at the Leicester Galleries in 1921 he presented several self-portraits including the infamous ‘Mr Wyndham Lewis as a Tyro’. William Rothenstein recalled that upon asking Lewis to sit for a portrait, he replied that ‘I am sitting for myself at present - in fact it is a permanent job, and I never sit for anybody else!’
This self-portrait, in three quarter view, smoking his signature pipe, demonstrates Wyndham Lewis’s virtuosic ability to use minimal line and rhythmic shape to great effect. The undulating curves of his jacket lapels are echoed in his hair and contrast sharply with the intensely angular almost abstract bow tie. As in several portraits of this period the eyes are merely shaded spaces, a clear rebuttal to the notion that the eyes are the heart of any portrait.
The previous owner, the diplomat Sir David Scott, was one of the most highly regarded of all twentieth century private British art collectors. Scott wrote of this portrait, ‘I like the uncompromising robustness of this drawing. There are not many lines in it but every line tells’.
|Paper Size||35.5 x 26.5 cm|
|Provenance||Redfern Gallery, where purchased by Sir David Scott, 11 August 1949 for 16 guineas|
|Exhibited||Redfern Gallery, London, ‘Wyndham Lewis’, 1949, cat. no. 42, entitled ‘Portrait of the Artist’ (1921).|
|Reference||Michel, Walter, ‘Wyndham Lewis Paintings and Drawings’, Thames and Hudson, 1971, p. 374, no. 428; ‘Pictures from the Collection of Sir David and Lady Scott’, Sotheby’s, 2008, pp. 184-185|