This study investigates the relationship between the history of self-portraiture in German art and the historical question of a collective identity. I propose that the turn to the image of the self demonstrates a narcissistic position in which the subject attempts a transformation of its selfobjects, or figures which mediate a sense of identity. The book begins with the appearance of the autonomous self-portrait with the Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer. It then looks at the Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich and his use of melancholy as both a sense of his own self, and German identity at the moment when a self-consciously collective identity was being posited in terms of a nation state. This problem of integrating a sense of self in German society is then examined in terms of trauma and the past following World War II. Various contemporary artists working with the self-image are presented, including: Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Katharina Sieverding and Jörg Immendorff.
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