A Face to the World is a beautiful, erudite and funny book about self-portraits written by Laura Cumming, one-time art critic for The Observer - you can find a copy at a tax avoider's website no doubt. Anyway, here are some quotes that struck me as especially worthwhile:
"Since painted faces cannot hold your interest by changing expression, much depends on the character of [the] look. It is the first pace we go, as in life, and if it is too tentative, blank or disaffected it might also be the last; the overture rebuffed.
[But] Whenever the look that originates in the mirror stays live and direct in the final image then the viewer should have a vicarious experience of being the artist..."
In an inept self portrait "the artist goes into a loop of looking at himself in the glass and reproducing that look that meets nothing but itself."
Klee: "Art does not render the visible. It renders visible."
"What the eyes have seen, literally and metaphorically: this is the concern of all art."
One of the hazards of letting a self portrait out into the world is that it may be "classed merely as a professional advertisement or some sort of self-serving signature. In short, that it may not be regarded, still less appreciated, as an actual work of art that has passed through the imagination and intellect. Sometimes it seems surprising that so many artists are willing to take the risk."
Jackson Pollock: "Painting is no problem. The problem is what to do when you are not painting."
"... literalism generally stifles the spirit." (Ah me, an important observation for the photographer to think about and work towards overcoming).
"Just to be able to fool the eye, create an illusion like a mirror, may have been all the world once wanted of art, but art had long since exceeded that function."
Salvatore Rosa, painter, 1615 - 73:
"I do not paint for money but for my own satisfaction," he informed one dispirited patron, "so you must allow me to be carried away by the power of my raptures, and to wield my brushes only at a time when I feel myself to be ravished."
"For every person who senses sorrow and resignation in Rembrandt's late self-portraits there will be others who insist he shows nothing but battle-scarred pride, and this ambiguity is the peak of his art. The many shades of nuance in a Rembrandt self portrait are exactly what deepens one's sense of the artist."