Pen to Paper

Celebrity Self-Portraits for Auction

Burt Britton’s rare collection of more than 200 self-portraits from writers, athletes, actors, and musicians, all better known for creative outlets other than art, was sold this week at New York’s Bloomsbury Auctions. Britton accidentally obtained the first portrait 35 years ago, from Norman Mailer, while substituting as a bartender at Manhattan’s Village Vanguard. At the same locale, Britton asked Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and an underage Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to also put pen to paper. Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges, who had gone blind in his 50s, did his portrait in the basement of the Strand bookstore, using a single finger to guide the pen he held with his other hand. Though Britton previously assembled over 500 of the self-portraits for a book, Self-Portrait: Book People Picture Themselves, which is now out of print, the images were available to the public Thursday for anywhere between $400 and $3,000, depending on the caliber of the personality, according to Bloomsbury.