national portrait collection

Around 1918, Edward Hopper made an etching in which he portrayed himself wearing a hat. Self-Portrait preserves the pose of this earlier image, while his heavier features and laugh lines suggest the effects of time’s passage. Dressed in a suit and tie, Hopper gives no indication of his profession; indeed, he appears as the antithesis of the stereotypical bohemian artist. Though the interior space he occupies is nondescript, his hat suggests a moment of transition—that he is on his way somewhere else. Like so many of the people he portrayed on trains and in hotels and waiting rooms, Hopper looks as if he has been captured in a contemplative, in-between moment, engaged in a scene that hints at narrative possibilities but remains mysterious.

Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Self Portrait, 1925–30. Oil on canvas, 25 3/8 × 20 3/8 in. (64.5 × 51.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.1165 © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by Whitney Museum, NY

Vivien Leigh having her portrait painted by David Jagger, 27 September 1941. Keystone Press Agency Ltd. Bromide print. Photographs Collection, National Portrait Gallery.

This photograph is staged to announce the finished portrait; Jagger is given his identity by the paintbrush and his gaze, while the viewer is acknowledged by Leigh and her portrait simultaneously. The work combines theatricality and the attentive female gaze, alluding to a progressive period in which refined women confronted the viewer.