‘Self-Portrait’ Receives Praise

The NYRB edition of Celia Paul's artistic memoir Self-Portrait, which was published earlier this month, has garnered positive reviews from writers and critics at the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and The New York Times. You can read excerpts from the write-ups below:

“[T]hat is the duality of Paul’s life: She experiences art both as a woman and an artist. The two identities are inextricable from one another, and the tension between the two poles is electric. . . . Self-Portrait is a beautifully written bildungsroman, a “portrait of the artist” as a young woman. It is also, more uniquely, a powerful resource for artists who face the dueling responsibilities of creation and caregiving. You don’t have to be a woman or a mother to feel this friction.” —Jessica Ferri, Los Angeles Times

“Self-Portrait is not an exercise in setting the record straight, the unvarnished truth about a great man. Nor is it the work of an artist’s muse, speaking up at last. It’s an account of a life so rigorously dedicated to art and family that fame seems beside the point. . . . Self-Portrait documents a woman learning to trust—not Freud, not other artists, but herself. . . . As a writer, [Paul is] possessed of a heightened sensibility, a particular vantage on to the world. . . . Celia Paul is a more gifted writer than she has any business being; it’s almost unfair. . . . Self-Portrait reads like a novel.” —Rumaan Alam, The New Republic

“Captivating . . . Paul writes about her struggle to love someone while dedicating herself to her painting, explaining in her prologue that she hopes her book will “speak to young women artists — and perhaps to all women — who will no doubt face this challenge in their lives at some time and will have to resolve this conflict in their own ways.” . . . Self-Portrait reveals an abjection that declines to announce itself as such. . . . The arc of Paul’s story is not one of triumph, but endurance.” —Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

Back to News