Joseph Stella, American (born Italy), 1877 - 1946
By the time of the 1913 Armory Show in New York City, Joseph Stella had become a committed Modernist painter working in a Futurist style. Shortly thereafter he turned to more representational imagery and began to favor large, simplified forms and shapes. During a trip to Italy in the 1920s he came under the influence of Italian Renaissance art, as seen in this self-portrait in which he used the Renaissance drawing material metalpoint as well as the profile format typical of portraits of that period. Of Stella's many self-portraits, this is surely his most eccentric. His massive shoulders rise and fall to form a kind of hillside from which tropical leaves emerge, their edges curving to frame the back of his enormous head. The knobs and notches of his profile, as well as the tuft of hair sprouting from the top of his head, are oddly echoed by a squirrel drawn only in silhouette, as though to underline the analogies.