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Schädel Series - From the Research Department - Viewing Room - From the Research Department

At once an opportunity for self-portraiture and a visual reminder of our common fate, the image of a skull is rich in art historical associations. This vanitas motif, first popularized in the Dutch still life paintings of the 17th century and reintroduced at the turn of the 20th century in Surrealist works by Dalí, Man Ray, and others, continues to be a useful subject for artists in confronting themes of mortality, identity and self-reflection, and even the potential for artists to live on through image-making. Two iconic works featuring a skull arrived at the gallery recently, one an original contact print for Meret Oppenheim’s x-ray self-portrait and the other a Gerhard Richter Schädel painting, prompting us to consider how each fits within the context of this vanitas tradition. Presented in two parts, this From the Research Department examines the works one at a time, delving into each artist’s approach and their respective historical points of reference.