Self-Portrait with Concert Program 1942
Paraskeva Clark, Self-Portrait with Concert Program, 1942
Oil with paper (concert program) on canvas, 76.6 x 69.8 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
This self-portrait is a statement of Clark’s concern over the invasion of Russia by the Nazis and the siege of Leningrad, which began in September 1941. For the duration of the siege, Clark had no way of communicating with the members of her family and friends who lived there. She identified so strongly with Russia’s plight that she made the statement a personal one.
What Clark strove to communicate through the serious expression on her face and her stiff, upright posture—so different from Myself, 1933—was the gravity of the Second World War. She holds the program of a benefit concert for Russia that she attended in late 1941. The distinctive hue of her suit stands out against the muted tones of the interior furnishings in her stylish Rosedale home and catches the viewer’s eye, which is directed to the concert program itself. To make the message more powerful, she collaged the actual program onto the surface of the canvas. She also gave added definition to her hair and her suit by drawing into the wet paint (as she did in October Rose, 1941).
The National Gallery of Canada purchased the painting in 1944. Clark requested it a number of times for solo or two-person shows in the 1940s and 1950s, attesting to her high regard for it: “The self-portrait at the National Gallery is a matter of great pride to me,” she told the Montreal journalist Lawrence Sabbath.