Emilio Baz Viaud

Autorretrato del artista adolescente, 1935

Acuarela y pincel seco / cartulina
60 x 39.7 cm

This delicate but arresting self-portrait was painted when Emilio Baz Viaud was just seventeen, three years before he even entered the Academy of San Carlos. Whatever precocious talent he may have had as a child, it was apparently refined while watching his much older brother Ben-Hur at work on his own precisionist drawings. Ben-Hur had himself studied at the Academy from 1923 to 1926, before moving to New York in 1926, where he established himself as a successful commercial illustrator. Emilio traveled several times to visit his brother, and it may have been on one of these trips that he painted this work which, unlike his Autorretrato of 1941 (Blaisten Collection), lacks any overt references to Mexico. Indeed, Emilio’s 1935 image is closely related to a self-portrait of Ben-Hur, holding a brush at his easel, painted in the same year (private collection). In his 1935 self-portrait, Emilio Baz wears a white shirt so simple that the buttons remain concealed; his hair is crisply waxed and combed, and his skin flawless. He holds a green pencil in his right hand and grips his elbow with the left, forming a stiff right angle that locks the lower half of the composition in place. The young artist strives for absolute elegance, hoping to prove a sense of sophistication beyond his years, something also present in Frida Kahlo’s first self-portrait, painted in 1926 as a gift for Alejandro Gómez Arias. But at the same time, the result here is almost too perfect, too annoying: where is there to go from here? Although the current title seems a citation of James Joyce’s 1916 novel, Teresa del Conde has wisely noted that it was probably applied later.

Vide. James Oles, Arte moderno de México. Colección Andrés Blaisten, Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005.

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