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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Sculpture: 20th century: 35 Year Portrait
35 Year Portrait

35 Year Portrait
Robert Arneson
glazed ceramic
76 1/4 x 25 5/8 x 27 1/4 in. (193.7 x 65.1 x 69.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Edith S. and Arthur J. Levin
"I can poke fun at myself. I know myself better than anyone else, and I’m free." The artist, quoted in Robert Arneson: Self-Reflections, 1997

Robert Arneson’s two-faced self-portrait is a play on the traditional portrait bust as well as sculptures marking the graves of Greek and Roman heroes and the double-headed Roman deity, Janus. Throughout 35 Year Portrait, Arneson juxtaposed images of his wrinkled, older self with ones of classical beauty, flippantly reminding the viewer that everyone ages and dies. Rather than create an idealized image, the artist offered a realistic self-portrait and a frank evaluation of his own fate. Arneson employed his characteristic wit to tackle this difficult subject matter. He incised the word "huh?" and stamped "CHUG CHUGGIN ALONG" on the pedestal, both of which emphasize Arneson’s tendency toward satirical self-reflection in his self-portraits.

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