In her self-portraits Louisa Matthiasdottir stands ramrod straight, head turned slightly to one side, often with her hands resting on her hips. She’s seventy-seven now, and, with her terrific bone structure, straight white hair, and blue eyes, she’s a wonderful portrait subject. She often paints herself at the center of a fairly large canvas, and she obviously enjoys the narcissistic rush that comes with putting herself in the kind of big portrait that was once reserved for the titled and the rich. Her portraits aren’t about lording it over us, but they’re not about leveling with us, either. In the self-portraits Matthiasdottir stands in the clear light of day: the luminous gray-blue air is a perfect medium in which to see the pinks of her skin, the brilliant stripes of a sweater, a green pair of shoes, her whole elegant-bohemian look. Matthiasdottir paints herself as an important person. She is so spare and ascetic-looking a...


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