Self-Portrait of Me with Crutches

  • Click on image to enlarge

    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Housepaint and marker on poster board with painted frame
34.5 x 26.75 inches
Collection of
Brooklyn Museum
Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Portraits—self-portraits in particular—are common in the work of Mose Tolliver, who manages to personalize and identify his abstracted figures through a variety of pictorial devices. His bust-length self-portraits are his least representational human images, and at times his most disturbing. Self-Portrait of Me with Crutches is an excellent example of Tolliver’s full-length self-portraits with crutches. The artist has rendered his facial features in much the same manner as those of most of his subjects—with a round head, and broad, flat nose, and relatively small eyes and mouth. The gray hair seen on this figures head is an important identifying feature of a Tolliver self-portrait, but by no means the most important. Like "Son" Thomas, Tolliver does not depict himself as a visual artist; instead he chooses to identify himself by the physical disability resulting from the 1977 accident in which his legs were crushed by a block of marble and which precipitated his venture into painting. The artist's crutches, powerfully rendered in broad streaks of paint downward from the figures hands, are the most poignant element of this image. This genre of Tolliver self-portrait with crutches is one of the most oft-repeated, and indicates a profound self-knowledge expressed artistically through portraiture.