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Blake’s self-portrait shows his equal respect for historical tradition and modern popular culture. He may have based this image on Thomas Gainsborough’s famous portrait The Blue Boy (illustrated to the left). But Blake’s blue fabric is not silk but denim – a material associated at the time with American youth culture.

Blake’s fascination with American popular culture is further emphasised by his baseball boots and badges, and the magazine dedicated to Elvis Presley, who had just become well known in Britain. Blake uses these objects like a traditional portrait painter, to suggest his interests or achievements.

August 2004