Born and bred in Leith, John Duncan Fergusson is said to have briefly trained as a naval surgeon before deciding to become an artist. Around 1893 he enrolled at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh, but, like many of his contemporaries, was disappointed with its teaching and left. Without any further formal art training he set up a studio in Edinburgh, and from 1895 made frequent trips to Paris, moving there in 1907. He became involved in the Parisian art scene and was greatly influenced by the work of French contemporary artists. This relatively early self-portrait, painted about 1902, shows a strong awareness of sculptural form. Its bold brushwork is characteristic of his later work, whereas the rich, dark colours of this portrait later give way to a cooler and lighter palette.