Johnny Depp creates debut self-portrait in 'dark' and 'confusing' time

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A self-portrait by actor Johnny Depp is displayed at Castle Fine Art gallery on Thursday, July 20, 2023 in London. Depp has painted the emotions of recent years into a self-portrait, titled "Five," and is offering the result for sale as a time-limited edition as of July 20, 2023. (Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP)

LONDON – Johnny Depp has painted the emotions of recent years into a self-portrait and is offering the result for sale as a time-limited edition.

The actor began working on the piece, titled “Five,” around 2021 in the midst of an explosive dispute with his ex-wife, Amber Heard, which played out in courtrooms on both sides of the Atlantic.

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“I think this is the most personal piece he’s ever done,” said Ian Weatherby-Blythe, managing director of Castle Fine Art, which is handling the sale of “Five.” The gallery also oversaw Depp’s sold-out debut art collection, the series of portraits “Friends & Heroes.”

“He revisited the eyes over and over and over again. And when you look at the piece, you know, it’s a beautiful portrait. But when you look at the eyes there’s something very meaningful behind the eyes, there’s something, you know, quite sad."

“It was created at a time that was, let’s say, a bit dark, a bit confusing,” Depp said in a video released Thursday to promote the sale.

“Essentially, I just wrote ‘Five’ on there because I was just about to enter the fifth year of the madness.”

Priced from £1,950 ($1,950), signed editions of “Five” go on sale at 1600 GMT Thursday for 13 days.

Heard filed for divorce in May 2016, seeking a temporary restraining order against the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star.

In April 2022, Depp began a libel trial he brought against Heard, based on a 2018 Washington Post op-ed piece in which she referred to herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” A Virginia jury eventually ruled that Heard had defamed Depp on three counts and awarded him $15 million in damages. In a countersuit, Depp was found guilty of one charge of libel and Heard was awarded $2 million.

A British court had ruled in 2020 that a tabloid article labeling Depp “a wife beater” was “substantially true.” Soon after the ruling in the U.K., Hollywood largely cut ties with Depp, jettisoning him from both the “Fantastic Beasts” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises.

Fashion house Dior, Depp notes, “as much as it was painful ... stuck to their guns,” and “Five” uses as a starting point the photograph that launched his Dior Sauvage campaign, led by creative director Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

A few months ago, Depp went back to the artwork, and after making adjustments, decided to publicly share what he views as an act of creative healing.

Using archival pigment, in the style of his earlier series of portraits, “Five” marks the first time Depp has sought to capture his own image. A smaller artwork, with a lower price tag, “Five” is described as deliberately intimate and shows the actor in a state of emotional exhaustion.

“It’s not the most comfortable thing doing a self-portrait,” Depp said, noting he would sit with a mirror and sketch himself in different lights, times and angles.

“It should just be some expression, spit it out as it gets spit out.”

He also intends to sign “each and every one,” said Weatherby-Blythe. “He’s made that commitment, he wants to give the opportunity to as many people as possible to buy his art and also he wants to try to raise as much money as he can for Mental Health America,” he added. From the proceeds of each sale, $200 is to be donated to the non-profit.

Depp may have won in court, but public opinion remains divided on the actor who was once one of the most bankable stars in movies.

Weatherby-Blythe believes there will be interest from art collectors as well as the stars’ supporters.

“I think Johnny still has many, many fans out there. But I’m also hoping that art buyers will see it as a one-off work of art,” he said, pointing out that the actor has “painted and drawn his entire life, and I think that art connoisseurs will see that. ... And this piece is a very, very special, very personal piece.”