Self Portrait (Spread Fingers), from the series, A Body of Work

John Coplans (English (active United States) 1920–2003)


Framed: 99.7 x 92.1 cm (39 1/4 x 36 1/4 in.) Sheet: 76.2 x 68.8 cm (30 x 27 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Photograph, gelatin silver print

Not On View


Contemporary Art, Europe, Photography



John Coplans often fragments and distorts the human body in his work, transforming the figure into something alternately alien and abstract. When Coplans took up photography in 1980 at the age of sixty, having already worked for many years as a painter, teacher, critic, curator, and museum director, his focus was his own aging body-posed against a neutral background and isolated and cropped so that the parts are often nearly unrecognizable. His extensive series of naked, rather than nude, studies never include his head or face, challenging our notions of self-portraiture and our celebration of the idealized human form. Here, two of Coplans’s fingers, greatly enlarged and shown extremely close-up, take on the look of a torso, buttocks, and legs, with their wrinkled texture suggesting something almost more animal than human.


Signed, verso, in black ink u. r.: "c COPRIGHT JOHN COPLANS 1987/NOT TO BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION". Titled and numbered, verso, in graphite, u. r.: "9/SELF PORTRAIT (SPREAD FINGERS) 1/12".


Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston; 1990, sold by Yezerski Gallery to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 23, 1990)

Credit Line

Sophie M. Friedman Fund


Reproduced with permission.