Dieter Roth

Self-Portrait as a Drowning Man


Not on display

Dieter Roth 1930–1998
Original title
Selbstbild als Ertrunkener
Acrylic paint, watercolour and glue on cardboard
Support: 800 × 1003 mm
Purchased 1977

Display caption

Roth made self-portraits in a variety of media throughout his career, particularly during the mid-1970s. This work was made in Iceland, where Roth periodically lived and worked. In order to bring the work to London in his suitcase, he cut it into a number of pieces. This gesture was characteristic of Roth’s irreverent approach to the art object. He was especially open to changes that would occur after he had ‘finished’ the work, such as the process of cracking which is visible here.

Gallery label, May 2009

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Catalogue entry

Dieter Roth born 1930 [- 1998]

T02209 Self-Portrait as a Drowning Man 1974

Inscribed '"Selfportrait [sic] als Ertrunkener"' and 'Dieter Roth 74' both b. centre
Acrylic and watercolour with glue on cardboard, 31 1/2 x 39 1/2 (80 x 100)
Purchased from Mimi Lipton (Grant-in-Aid) 1977
Prov: Mimi Lipton, London (purchased from the artist)
Exh: Dieter Roth: Originale 1946-74, Kunstverein, Hamburg, June-July 1974 (194), wrongly entitled and wrongly dated 'Valley 1973'

This and T02210 belong to a series of self-portraits of the artist in different situations painted over a period of some years, and are among the largest works of the series. In some he appears not in the centre but at the side, for instance looking out of a window. Here he is seen from the back in an outdoor setting suggesting water, fog, etc. It was painted in Iceland and, like T02210, was cut into sections so that he could bring it to London in a suit-case.

It was executed in acrylic and watercolour in glue, and the artist anticipates that it will crack before long and that (if they are allowed to touch the surface) people will begin to pick bits off. Though this can be delayed to some extent, it is his intention that it should be allowed to deteriorate and the process of disintegration is part of the work. He suggested that the Gallery could record the deterioration by photographing the picture from time to time.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.655, reproduced p.655

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