Séverine (c.1895). Louis Welden Hawkins (French, 1849-1910). Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay.
Although the painting alone suggests a determined modern woman writer, the representation of wheat and laurel leaves and the words Pax and Panis on the frame make Severine’s commitment clear. It had begun at a very early stage when she became the secretary of the socialist journalist and writer Jules Vallès, and continued through various publications in defence of the working-class which led her to the head of the newspaper Le Cri du Peuple from 1885 to 1888.
I needed to do a self-portrait for a thing, and for once I actually liked how it turned out. There’s a funny thing that happens when you make a self-portrait; like you don’t want to idealize yourself, but at the same time you don’t want to be self-deprecating, you know? I usually just phone it in and go super-cartoony, but I wanted to try something different for this one. I think it’s pretty true to spirit, if not likeness. You will never see me without a scarf, not even in the summer.