Artist Laurent Dauptain is known for painting over 3000 self-portraits depicting his gradual aging
And the 49-year-old Frenchman says he'll do it until the day he dies.
"I don't have to worry about flattering somebody or hurting someone's ego," he said of his strange fixation.
Still, it took one of his most important critics - his wife of 13 years - a while to warm up to the project.
"At first I thought he was obsessed and crazy," admits Sylvie Dauptain, 46. "Now I understand."
"There's a lot of freedom," when you decide to make yourself your artistic subject, Laurent Dauptain said yesterday, shortly after arriving from Paris ahead of his exhibit in Chelsea.
It all started when, at age 20, Dauptain drew 12 self-portraits for a college assignment to imagine himself at different ages.
He was fascinated by the results, which depicted his face from age 15 to 95.
He set out on a mission to re-create the project in real time.
"That was the impetus," Dauptain said, speaking in his native French. "Now as the years go by I see myself aging, I see the reality."
"I'm about halfway there," he said of the 95 mark.
Dauptain uses mirrors and recent photographs to study his image as he puts oil paint on canvases, some as big as 4 by 6 feet.
"The self-portraits for me are like the sunflowers for Van Gogh," he said.
His latest portraits go on display tomorrow at Axelle Fine Arts in Chelsea at 535 W. 25th St.
"There's new lines on my face," he said of his most recent work. "There's some white hair on my beard."
It's all part of the artist's 50-painting show, which also includes landscapes and cityscapes.
But it's his portraits that leave art lovers most fascinated.
Gallery owner Bertrand Delacroix was captivated when he first saw the work a few years ago.
"I don't like to see myself in the mirror," Delacroix said, "so it's hard to imagine someone painting himself 3,000 times."