Self-Portrait, Yawning
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Ducreux entered his first Salon competition in 1791 and was mocked as “the yawner who would make a lackey laugh,” so rude, but worse-still was “yawn inspiring Decreux.”

After being dragged through the mud of the art world he was #overit and full of the nihilistic self-deprecation dripping off this canvas. The fact that he displayed this work publicly was considered indecent, impolite, and in poor taste. Of course those critiques are standard fare for the selfie generation, and you might turn those critiques back on the critics themselves; if you don’t have something nice to say…didn’t they have kindergarten in the 1700’s?

Self-Portrait Yawning makes the personal into theatrical spectacle, and just like a good #tbt it provides a window into his personality. Decreux felt theater, controversy, and person are pretty much the same thing and that they go well together; all three are meant to be free and made readily available for public consumption.

Ducreux had a habit of making it easy to be a tabloid journalist, much like today’s master of the selfie genre, Kim Kardashian. In his own day he was called “incredible and revolting,” old habits die harder that old bodies and to this day writers call him things like “charmingly douchey.” He and ye olde Kim even had their work exhibited in side by side in Saatchi Gallery. First Painter to Marie Antoinette and in a group show with Kim K, dude knows how to brush shoulders with the matriarchs.

Ducreux’s pose is melodramatic AF, bordering on caricature and making it perfect fodder for the memes that so famously use this painting. The Decreux in the portrait is clearly not as tired as his too-big arm movements and self-aware mouth suggest, but he doesn’t have the energy or desire to care what you think about it, he woke up like this.



  1. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. Edited by Jean Clair. The Great Parade: Portraits of the Artist as a Clown. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. Accessed August 24, 2017.
  2. Jeffares, Neil. “DUCREUX, Joseph Nancy 1735 – Paris 1802.” Dictionary of pastellistes before 1800: Online edition. August 4, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2017.
  3. Klee, Miles. April 30, 2010. “Vanishing Point (Your Meme’s Reviewed): The Joseph Ducreux Self-Portrait.” The Awl. Accessed August 25, 2017. memes-reviewed-the-joseph-ducreux-self-portrait/
  4. Tidy, Alice. March 30, 2017. “Kim Kardashian joins Rembrandt in selfie exhibit.” Yahoo! News. Accessed August 25, 2017. 300.html