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Self Portrait

Self Portrait
oil on board
11 ¾ x 9 in. (29.9 x 22.8 cm.)
Painted in 1949.
with Waddington Galleries, London, 1980.
with Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover, where purchased by the present owner in 1983.
Exhibition catalogue, Peter Blake, London, Tate Gallery, 1983, p. 74, no. 1, illustrated.
C. Grunenberg and L. Sillars (eds.), exhibition catalogue, Peter Blake: A Retrospective, Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, 2007, pp. 15, 201, exhibition not numbered, illustrated.
London, Tate Gallery, Peter Blake, February - March 1983, no. 1.
Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, L'autoportrait a' l'a^ge de la photographie : peintres et photographes en dialogue avec leur propre image, January - March 1985: this exhibition travelled to Stuttgart, Wu¨rttembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, April - June 1985, catalogue not traced.
Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, Peter Blake: A Retrospective, June - September 2007, exhibition not numbered.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Out of the eleven known self portraits by Peter Blake, this is the very first. Painted while still a student at the Gravesend College of Art, this astonishingly early work is a true testament to his talent, produced at just seventeen years old. Confronted head on with his firm gaze, an immediate intimacy is established between us and Blake, drawing us in to then explore the detail of his painterly brush strokes, ‘hypnotised by the magic with which the carefully delineated painted marks coalesce into flesh and blood’ (M. Livingstone, Peter Blake: A Love of Humanity in Peter Blake: Portraits and People, Waddington Custot Gallery, London, 2015, p.19). His stare intent and mouth slightly parted, it is as if he is concentrating just as hard on our faces as we are on his. Furthermore, the present work establishes recurrent themes in Blake's figure paintings: 'the frontal pose, the pronounced creases in the lower lip, the discontinuous surface and the fact that one eye is realised less completely than the other' (see Exhibition catalogue, Peter Blake, London, Tate Gallery, 1983, p. 74).

Evident in his realist palette and charming portrayal of light and shadow through oil paint is the inspiration Blake drew from academic figurative practices, from fifteenth century Flemish portraiture to his contemporaries such as Lucian Freud. While his iconic Pop works are in many ways a refusal of academic tradition, we can clearly see his rooting in it as an important stage of his artistic development, and returned to in triumphant later works such as his last known self portrait, Self Portrait with Badges, 1961, which Blake expressed may have been subconsciously influenced by Jean-Antoine Watteau's Pierrot, or Gilles. Curiously, this last known self portrait, in which he depicts himself as an adult man of twenty nine, denim jacket covered in badges and Elvis magazine in hand, harks nostalgically back to, simultaneously revealing a yearning of, the innocence and youth that is captured in our 1949 self portrait. This celebration of the exuberance of youth is consistent throughout his career, in his dazzling palette and imaginative imagery.

Blake transcended the world of fine art, by conflating his rooting in traditional academic practices with his passion for popular culture. Far from these vibrant, playful Pop creations that constituted the majority of his oeuvre, however, this portrait is significant in its rareness and rawness, capturing a moment in time of a man on the brink of a gloriously exciting artistic journey that would propel him to the forefront of the British Pop Art movement.

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