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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Scott Budzynski completed his Ph.D. in Art History and Criticism at SUNY Stony Brook in 2005. He currently lives in Berlin and is working on the Federal German Research Project Memory Cultures.
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