Reviews

  • "Her story is striking. It is not, as has been assumed, the tale of a muse who later became a painter, but an account of a painter who, for ten years of her early life, found herself mistaken for a muse, by a man who did that a lot. Her book is about many things besides Freud: her mother, her childhood, her sisters, her paintings. But she neither rejects her past with Freud nor rewrites it... One of the subtle methods of this crafty book is insinuation, creating new feminist genealogies and hierarchies by implication... [A] powerful little book... What else will we start to see now the mist of misogyny begins to clear? Self-Portrait will go some way to clearing that mist from the world of portraiture."

    Zadie Smith, New York Review of Books
  • "A poetic, sometimes painfully honest memoir."

    Tim Adams, Observer
  • "Self-Portrait made me think of two recent, elliptical autobiographical projects that refuse to conform to traditional notions of intimate disclosure: Rachel Cusk’s autofiction trilogy… and Joanna Hogg’s film The Souvenir… Like Cusk and Hogg, Paul plays with the balance between confession and dispassion. In their different ways, all three are challenging our ideas about how autobiography works. There’s something tremendously refreshing about Paul’s lack of sensationalism… Self-Portrait is both the obvious extension of Paul’s oeuvre, and a powerful, urgent and essential depiction of what it is to be a woman artist."

    Lucy Scholes, Daily Telegraph
  • "A story of obsession and manipulation that sends our feelings on a rollercoaster... [Self-Portrait] turns into a sort of myth about the misuse of fame and the male ego, about the struggles faced by creative women, about the body in all its guises. Like a myth, it unfolds with confusions and contradictions, a terrible inevitability and many, many discomfiting truths."

    Jan Dalley, Financial Times
  • "[An] insightful, unflinchingly honest account, she [Celia Paul] describes her need for space to work and think, her emotionally tempestuous 10-year relationship with Lucian Freud."

    Eithne Farry, Sunday Express
  • "Engrossing."

    Vogue
  • "Self-Portrait demonstrates a painter’s startling command of language and her moral power of seeing the world concretely and without subjectivity. Celia Paul’s account of the young woman artist’s struggle towards expression is a story that exposes some of the deepest wounds in our cultural psyche: the ambiguous power of the male artist, the vulnerability and isolation of the woman driven to create, the question of who owns her, of her very body and what it’s for. Written with beauty and candour but without anger, Self-Portrait will yet arouse indignation in its readers, for its delicate exposure of what occurs in the pursuit and misuse of artistic status."

    Rachel Cusk
  • "A deeply affecting and lyrical self-portrait of the artist as a young woman, which quietly builds in strength and luminosity, culminating in a glorious state of serenity and self-knowledge."

    Chloe Aridjis
  • "An insight into the white knuckle determination needed to make great art, and why it is so few women painters reach the heights. An astoundingly honest book, moving and engrossing – full of truths."

    Esther Freud
  • "Self-Portrait by Celia Paul is a valuable document. The precision and intimacy of her writing is as impressive as the empathy and power of her painting. I feel that this book will be important to many readers."

    Frank Auerbach