To Be or Seem to Be: Self-Portrait Strategies and Techniques


Since the Renaissance, artists have used the self-portrait to study themselves, and when we look at a self-portrait we are given a window into a fascinating world: a spy-hole not only into an artist’s individual ambitions and doubts, but also the world, times and society in which they worked.

Fine self-portraiture is not necessarily a test of greatness, but many great artists have been virtuosos of the art, from Dürer, Rembrandt and Hogarth to Van Gogh, Schiele and Dalí. Self-portraits chart the journeys of the mind as well as the changes of the body; rarely painted on commission, they also provide an arena for experimentation, giving the artist freedom to consider what they might become from the standpoint of what they are. Self-portraiture is also a genre where women artists have been as active as men: from Artemisia Gentileschi to Frida Kahlo and on into our own day, self portraits have provided a means of exploring the difficulties and restrictions placed on women artists by the expectations of a patriarchal culture.

Self-portraiture may be formal or intimate, public or private, real or imagined, but it always deals in truths, even when those truths are subjective and personal rather than strictly objective facts. This one-day course explores the phenomenon of the self-portrait through the works of artists, more and less well-known, who have been inspired by this unique genre to challenge convention and themselves.  

Programme details

Registration (in-person attendees)

Person/persona: introductions and intentions


What I can’t say in words: self-portrait as confessional


Self/symbol: the artist as actor


Through the Looking-Glass: self-portraits, mystery and magic

Course disperses 


Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £85.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £75.00
Baguette £6.10
Hot lunch (3 courses) £16.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Justine Hopkins


Justine Hopkins read English and Drama at Bristol University, followed by an MA at the Courtauld Institute. After a year as an archaeological illustrator, she took a PhD at Birkbeck College exploring relationships between science, religion and landscape painting in the nineteenth century. Her biography of twentieth century painter and sculptor Michael Ayrton appeared in 1994. She has contributed articles to a wide variety of periodicals and dictionaries; her latest article, on Serb sculptor Ivan Meštrović, appeared in Sculpture Journal last year. She works as a freelance lecturer in Art History for institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Oxford and Cambridge Universities; she is a registered lecturer for the Arts Society.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.