The 1973 exhibition at Fischer Fine Art featured eight self-portraits, including the present work, alongside portraits of the artist's father and Rosemary Peto. In the foreword to the exhibition catalogue Kossoff commented on his subjects, 'I have also, ever since I can remember, drawn and painted my Father and I have worked from others close to me who were able to persevere with the sittings. Although I have drawn and painted from landscapes and people constantly I have never finished a picture without first experiencing a huge emptying of all factual and topographical knowledge. And always, the moment before finishing, the painting disappears, sometimes into greyness for ever, or sometimes into a huge heap on the floor to be reclaimed, redrawn and committed to an image which makes itself'.
Self-Portrait No. 4 is typical of Kossoff's work; the board is covered in thick, viscous paint. The layers are achieved by being scraped-down and repainted again and again until they reach a satisfactory completion. The result is as much sculpted as painted, the boards sometimes so burdened by the physicality of the paint that they had to be left to dry horizontally.
Discussing Kossoff's work, Klaus Kertess wrote, 'The muted earthen tones, monumental scale, and visceral layering of loaded brushstrokes all congeal into precarious likenesses in Kossoff's heads. There is a sense that both painter and painted seem to struggle together for identity. The modest format (seldom more than 30 inches in height) of the portrait paintings is nevertheless densely packed with drawing incidents; every millimetre of the surface is pulled into action. The heavier the impasto of the face filling the space, the more modulations of light suffuse and transform the face in the portrait' (see exhibtion catalogue, Leon Kossoff, London, Annely Juda, 2000, p. 10).