How painters look to themselves

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A fascinating group of 30 portraits of painters - 28 of them self-portraits - has just gone on view at the National Academy of Design here. All are on loan from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, and represent that renowned museum's commitment to an exchange program with the National Academy to exhibit a significant portion of each other's famous collection of artists' self-portraits. These paintings range in time from a 16th-century portrait after one by Andrea del Sarto to a 1912 self-portrait by Walter Crane, and include self-portraits by Annibale Carracci, Domenichino, Vel'azquez, Rembrandt, Charles Le Brun, Angelica Kauffmann, and Frederick Leighton. Many show the artists at work in their studio environments, and a few, notably Nicola Van Houbraken's fanciful study of himself totally surrounded by flowers, show the artists' skill at depicting particular subjects.

Of special interest are Frederico Barocci's haunting psychological study executed about 1600, Anna Piattoli's remarkably frank self-portrait of 1776, and Vel'azquez's arrogantly detached 1643 painting of himself as a lofty and very important personage.

After its closing at the National Academy July 31, ``Portraits from the Uffizi Gallery'' travels to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, where it will be on view Aug. 13-Oct. 23.

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