Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Face to the World: On Self Portraits” as Want to Read:
A Face to the World: On Self Portraits
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Face to the World: On Self Portraits

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  137 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Focusing on the art of self-portraiture, this effortlessly engaging exploration of the lives of artists sheds fascinating light on some of the most extraordinary portraits in art history.

Self-portraits catch your eye. They seem to do it deliberately. Walk into any art gallery and they draw attention to themselves. Come across them in the world's museums and you get a
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 25th 2009 by HarperPress
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Face to the World, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Face to the World

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  137 ratings  ·  14 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Face to the World: On Self Portraits
Gorgeously written! Although I only needed the chapters focusing on particular self-portraits and artists, I ended up reading the entire book: it reads like a really good historical novel!
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Far More than an Important Art History Book: A Brilliant Historical Novel!,

Laura Cumming, in addition to being the art critic of the distinguished British journal The Observer, is a learned communicator and extraordinary writer. Given that she has been influential in the grace of productions offered by the Tate Museum while at the same time being able to be arts producer and presenter for BBC, she comes by her depth of knowledge about the visual arts naturally - and at the same time
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
3 1/2 stars.

A bit of a mixed bag, but I did enjoy "A Face to the World" and felt I learned quite a bit--to some extent about the artists, but also about the nature of art criticism.

Ms. Cumming's prose suffers to some degree from the kind of overwriting and preciousness that infects the captions at museum exhibitions, but it was interesting to look at the artists' pictures of themselves from such an educated point of view. Ms. Cummings examines self-portraits from their earliest appearances to
Jee Koh
Dec 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Why do artists paint self-portraits, Cumming asks, and so expose themselves and their art to the accusation of narcissism? Her answer is that self-portraits "make artists present as the embodiment of their art" and they often do so to ask who this person is who is looking back from the mirror. Cumming's book is a series of linked essays, roughly chronological in order, from Jan Van Eyck to Cindy Sherman, focusing mostly on paintings.

A mighty gallery of artists are discussed under rubrics such
Rachel C.
This book could really have benefited from a more thoughtful layout. Each portrait should have appeared on the page (or facing page) where it's first described. I did a lot of flipping back and forth that really broke the rhythm of the text.

As for the text, Laura Cumming certainly had her moments of insight and clarity but overall I found the prose a touch dry. The artists that came to life the most for me were Dürer, Courbet, David and Van Gogh.

"Self-portraits catch your eye. They seem to be
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I know it's an odd thing to say about an art book, but this makes an exhilarating read. Laura Cumming is a terrific writer on her subject - erudite without being heavy-handed, witty without being facetious - and both her arguments and style are immensely persuasive. The book is both an historical tour and an explication of the many forms which self-portraiture has taken, mainly in painting, but also photography. There are particularly fine chapters on Duerer and Van Gogh, with well- chosen ...more
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. It is a mammoth read, there is so much information, both in the text and in the artwork, that it takes concentration. Highly recommended as I learned so much.
Catherine Austen
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved this book. Each chapter looks at a different artist, and what their self-portraits might suggest. Well-written, informative and provocative without ever being out of reach for someone like me who really doesn't know much about art history.
Andrea Engle
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2016
An in-depth, semi-chronological analysis of the artists' self-portraits ... beginning with Jan van Eyck and finishing up with Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol and Lucian Freud ... fascinating for its insights and wide range of artists ...
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: educate-me, hobbies
I found this very satisfying. It was like having a wonderful gossip session with an art historian friend. So, I felt like I was learning a little bit and having a lot of fun.
Carlos Esteves
rated it liked it
Sep 19, 2019
Sophia Roberts
rated it it was amazing
Jul 29, 2019
rated it liked it
Jun 17, 2017
rated it did not like it
Apr 10, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Feb 16, 2016
Chelsea Burk
rated it really liked it
Jul 06, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Jul 01, 2012
Lucy Wright
rated it it was amazing
Jul 29, 2013
Annie Abbott
rated it it was amazing
Oct 09, 2017
Ron Kastner
rated it really liked it
Jan 28, 2016
Omeme Affixa
rated it it was amazing
Dec 13, 2016
rated it really liked it
Dec 05, 2017
Imraan Coovadia
rated it really liked it
Dec 09, 2017
James Farrar
rated it really liked it
Jun 07, 2017
rated it really liked it
Mar 07, 2015
Carol F. Phillips
rated it really liked it
Dec 27, 2016
Elizabeth L. Hill
rated it really liked it
Jan 05, 2017
Carmichael Claudio
rated it really liked it
Dec 02, 2016
rated it really liked it
Oct 20, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Power of Art
  • An Object of Beauty
  • The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
  • Wild Fire (Shetland Island, #8)
  • Death in Brittany (Commissaire Dupin #1)
  • The Woman in Blue (Ruth Galloway, #8)
  • The Story of Art
  • Small Gods (Discworld, #13)
  • Bad Things Happen (David Loogan, #1)
  • Little Weirds
  • Mudlark: In Search of London's Past Along the River Thames
  • Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope
  • Ways of Seeing
  • Oblivion or Glory: 1921 and the Making of Winston Churchill
  • How Art Made the World
  • Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything
  • Thud! (Discworld, #34; City Watch #7)
  • Feet of Clay (Discworld, #19; City Watch, #3)
See similar books…
Laura Cumming (born July 1961) the art critic for The Observer. In addition to her career in journalism, Cumming has written well-received books on self-portraits in art and the discovery of a lost portrait by Diego Velázquez in 1845.

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our lis...
39 likes · 9 comments