Self-Portrait at the Easel

  • Artist: Jean Heiberg
  • Creation date: 1919
  • Object type: Painting

On display: Room 067 The Collection Exhibition - Expression


In 1908, the year after his debut at the Autumn Exhibition in Kristiania, Jean Heiberg became the first Norwegian painter to enrol at the Académie Matisse in Paris. Several of Heiberg’s early works are clearly influenced by Henri Matisse’s theories of colour. After a few years in Paris studying the paintings of Paul Cézanne and others, Heiberg returned home to Norway, before moving back to Paris in 1919 and living there for a decade.

Also Self-Portrait at the Easel, one of his most well-known paintings, uses complementary colours, but in light, soft tones. It is the painting’s composition that has been the artist’s main concern. The seemingly uncomplicated self-portrait depicts the artist standing by a window that has been opened up toward the maritime landscape in the background. The painting is considerably more intricate than might appear at first glance, however, with the artist playing around with illusions and spatial shifts. The room we are peering into turns out to be an inverted image, so that the viewer seems to be standing in the same room as the artist. The blue, compact figure is placed askew against a bright wall, affording the picture a sense of movement, while the still life of fruits on the mantel below the mirror adds depth to the composition. A slightly diagonal line runs from the bowl of fruit toward the painter’s palette and further up to his face. The painting won acclaim when it was shown at the Salon d’Automne in Paris.

Heiberg was a revered figure among Norwegian artists, not least because of his many years as a professor and director at the Norwegian National Academy of Fine Arts.

Text: Marianne Yvenes

From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0


Jean Heiberg

Visual artist, Painter, Professor

Born 19.12.1884 in Kristiania, Norge, death 27.05.1976 in Oslo

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Selvportrett ved staffeliet (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret
  • Height: 81.5 cm
  • Width: 99 cm
  • Depth: 2.2 cm
Gift from Ingrid Langaard 1980
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Høstland, Børre/Lathion, Jacques
© Heiberg, Jean/BONO

"Self-Portrait at the Easel" relates to: