The Present
In 1960 Pistoletto painted some self-portraits in which he represented himself life size, still and inexpressive, as a prototype of a common human being, on monochromatic gold, silver and copper backgrounds. Finally, in 1961, came the turning point that led to the mirror paintings. Over a black-painted canvas he laid a thick layer of transparent varnish. As he approached it to paint his face, he suddenly realized he could see his reflection on the canvas itself, without having to use a mirror.

“In 1961, on a black background that had been varnished to the point that it reflected, I began to paint my face. I saw it come toward me, detaching itself from the space of an environment in which all things moved, and I was astonished. I realized that I no longer had to look at myself in another mirror, that I could copy myself while looking at myself directly in the canvas. In the next painting I turned the figure around, because the painted eyes were still artificial, whereas those of the reflection could be as real as those of the figure that now was on the surface of the painting looking into the painting. In fact, being now turned in same direction as I was, it possessed my eyes” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, Il rinascimento dell’arte, 1979, unpublished manuscript).

“The figure of a man seemed to come forward, as if alive, in the space of the gallery; but the true protagonist was the relationship of instantaneousness that was created between the spectator, his own reflection, and the painted figure, in an ever-present movement that concentrated the past and the figure in itself to such an extent as to cause one to call their very existence into doubt: it was the dimension of time itself” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, Minus Objects, Galleria La Bertesca, Genoa 1966)

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The Present
Self-Portrait with shirt, 1961
The Present
Man seen from the Front, 1961
The Present
Man seen from the Back, 1961
The Present
Seated Self-Portrait, 1961
 MICHELANGELO PISTOLETTO
Works