David Tindle, who was born in Huddersfield in 1932, was only about nineteen years old when he painted this self-portrait in oils. He had studied at Coventry School of Art from 1945-6, and by the early 1950s, was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
In 1961, Ruth paid fifteen guineas for the picture, painted ten years earlier. With his tousled, thick black hair, hazel eyes, pale skin, pronounced sensuous lips, fine, long nose and white shirt collar dishevelled as it half peeps over what appears to be a painter’s smock or maybe a fisherman-type jersey, the artist presents himself here as a handsome, introspective young man.
The young man’s wan regard, the sensitivity of the brushwork and the deliberately attenuated palette, all relate this work to early northern European psychological portraits, such as Hans Memling’s Man with a Roman Coin (c.1480), in which a countenance of enigmatic youthful gravity is framed by a flourishing array of black curls. So here too in Tindle’s picture, the austere palette – inclining to blacks and greys – vividly heightens the extremely pale flesh tones.
Frances Spalding has written of the early friendship between David Tindle and the artist John Minton:
‘Minton did a drawing of the younger man [Tindle] in April 1952, afterwards painting a half-length portrait of Tindle which now hands in Pallant House, Chichester…
From Tindle’s  exhibition [in a London gallery] Minton bought a small self-portrait which Lucian Freud also wanted to acquire. Painted very much under Freud’s influence but with a neo-romantic hangover, this portrait incorporates a considerable amount of emotive disturbance which serves, not to break the realist mode, but to enhance the immediacy of the sitter’s presence… Whilst looking at this picture Minton told Tindle: ‘You’re the first to see something in Lucian.’
Tindle’s self-portraits of 1951 and 1952 possess a mesmeric intensity that (as in Freud’s early portraiture) presents young maleness in an uncompromising new light.
A 1985 egg tempera self-portrait by Tindle shows the artist looking straight at us with tender gravity through round, metal-rimmed glasses. Here, ‘memory and presence are very close’ (to use Tindle’s own phrase about achieving ‘the right tonality’ in his art): each hair on the head, each pore on the skin, infinitesimally probed and rendered. This picture, like his 1951 self-portrait, highlights, paradoxically, the hauntingly elusive nature of human identity.