New Zealand, 1912–1986
Self Portrait 1975
oil on board, 712 x 725 mm
Collection of The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū: purchased with the Cuthbertson bequest in 2012. ACC: 1147
In what is possibly his last self-portrait, Leo Bensemann has placed himself against a landscape that meant a great deal to him. He was born in the Tākaka area, and he often returned to Golden Bay for summer holidays with his own family.
Bensemann was influenced by Renaissance profile portraits. Here he has painted himself in strict profile, deep in concentration, his forehead outlined by his distinctive thick eyebrows.
The red twig in his hand is an intriguing feature of this painting. Is it a divining rod, or a stand-in for pencil or brush? Does it join his hand, head and heart to his favourite landscape of Ligar Bay and Tata Islands?